Thirty-two Republican senators have signed a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow a floor vote on a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The letter, circulated by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, stresses the urgency of taking up Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which the House passed last summer. It cites a study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education arm of SBA List, that found that the United States is one of seven countries in the world that permits elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“It is time America join the ranks of most other civilized countries by protecting unborn children at least at the point at which they are capable of feeling pain," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement. "The House already approved this humane measure in a bipartisan vote last summer. There’s no reason our constituents should be kept from having their voices heard on this issue in the Senate as well."
Thirty-two of the Senate's 45 Republican members signed the letter, including McConnell, Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). Only two GOP women, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Deb Fischer (Neb.), signed on.
The 20-week abortion ban would directly challenge the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman's right to have an abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, around 22 to 24 weeks. Thirteen states have passed similar bans, and many of them are now having to defend those laws in court.
Reproductive rights groups strongly oppose the 20-week abortion ban because the small number of women who choose abortion after that point are often faced with very difficult medical situations they discovered late in the pregnancy, such as a severe fetal anomaly or threats to the mother's health. The bill contains exceptions only for rape, incest and cases in which a doctor can show that the woman would die without an abortion.
Reid's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: 5 p.m. -- Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, responded to the GOP letter in a statement:
Apparently, these GOP leaders are slow to learn their lesson. The vast majority of Americans support the reproductive rights and legal abortion. Voters in this country are looking for leaders who expand freedom, opportunity, and respect personal decision making for all Americans, not restrict them. This ban on abortions is not only blatantly unconstitutional, but it has been beaten when put to the test at the ballot box. That's because once people learn that these procedures are exceedingly rare and represent the most complicated cases of severe anomalies and threats to health and life of the pregnant woman, the vast majority agree these decisions are not well suited for blanket legislation and meddling from politicians who cannot know the details of each case.