The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Most GOP lawmakers support banning late-term abortions — and so do a lot of women

Nora, 6, of Harrisonburg, Va., demonstrates with her family and friends on the steps of the Supreme Court in 2016 in Washington. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

The House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a key priority for conservative lawmakers over the past several years.

Democrats say the vote is the latest example of Republicans playing “politics” with health care.

But it's not just social conservatives who want it to be illegal for women to have what antiabortion activists call a “late-term abortion.” A large percentage of women share that view.

More than 4 in 10  (42 percent) of women said they would support a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks in their state, according to a January Quinnipiac poll.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act only allows for abortions after 20 weeks when necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. Under the bill, abortions performed during that period could be carried out “only in the manner which, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive” and would require a second physician trained in neonatal resuscitation to be present.

The House passed a very similar bill in 2013. The next year, nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) of women supported the bill, according to a Quinnipiac poll.

Antiabortion activists argue that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not endorsed those findings.

Another poll shows that it's not just social conservatives who support banning late-term abortions. According to a recent Marist Poll commissioned, nearly half — 49 percent — of Democrats want abortion banned after 20 weeks.

The bill is not expected to emerge from the Senate, because though three Democrats in the House supported it, a few moderate Republicans are expected to join Democrats to block its consideration in the Senate.

“Let me be clear: This bill is as dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told The Post on Tuesday, “just like it was the last time Republicans tried to pander to their extreme base by playing this particular political game with women’s health.”

But antiabortion activists consider the president's endorsement of the bill significant for their movement.

In the months before his election, Donald Trump pledged to sign a 20-week abortion bill into law if he became president.

A White House statement released Monday said the administration “strongly supports” the legislation “and applauds the House of Representatives for continuing its efforts to secure critical pro-life protections.”