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Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passes House, introduced in Senate

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) re-introduced the Senate version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act during a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Graham's bill is the companion legislation to House of Representatives' version, which passed earlier this week by a vote of 237 to 189. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) re-introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the Senate on Thursday, just days after it was approved by the House of Representatives.

What would the bill do?

The bill would ban elective abortion procedures after 20 weeks gestation. It has exceptions for cases of rape or incest against a minor, and for cases where there is a maternal mortality risk. It was passed by the House on Tuesday in a 237-189 vote.

Graham, who previously introduced the legislation in the Senate in the face of veto threats from the Obama administration, introduced it again on Thursday. During a news conference, he argued that even Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, recognized a “state interest” in preventing abortion after a child is viable outside the womb.

“Viability has definitely changed since 1973,” Graham said, arguing that medical advancements made it possible for younger and younger premature children to survive.

Graham said the bill is based on the premise that unborn children can feel pain at 20 weeks, noting that surgeons performing fetal operations administer anesthesia for the child at that point.

“So it’s not much of a leap to say an abortion would be a painful thing for that child to go through,” Graham said.

According to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the United States is one of just seven nations — which also include China and North Korea — that permit abortion after 20 weeks. Graham called those nations a club “that I particularly don’t want to be in.”

What do critics say?

Critics like Planned Parenthood Action fund say the bill is part of an "agenda to ban all abortion.”

Can it pass the Senate?

The Hill noted that the bill would need 60 votes to be passed by the Senate. Republicans have 52 seats and most Democrats oppose the measure. In 2015, the bill was defeated on a 54-42 vote.

At the time, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Bob Casey, (D-Pa.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) broke with their party to support the bill, while Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted with Democrats in opposition to the bill.

Graham said 20 states have passed similar legislation, and he’s excited about “the legal debate to come.”

“We got three votes from our Democratic friends last time,” he said. “The more you educate, the more you vote, the larger the number gets. We’re marching toward 60 because the reasoning against this doesn’t withstand common-sense scrutiny.”

Graham added that science and “basic human dignity” are “on our side.”

“This is a debate worthy of a great nation,” he said.

Should it pass, the White House has said that President Donald Trump would sign it into law.

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