Senate Democrats have blocked a bill that would make it illegal for a woman to get an abortion after 20-weeks of pregnancy, which supporters of the bill say is the time when a fetus can feel begin to feel pain.
The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but failed to do so in a 54-42 vote.
The vote has been seen as yet another attempt by GOP leaders to get Republicans to vote on issues related to abortion just before government funding expires at the end of September, which will likely stoke a heated debate over government funding.
Republican Texas Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz has led Conservative Republicans to call on their colleagues in the chamber to block any government funding bill that does not strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, told reporters last week that Republicans "are not going to engage in exercises in futility. We've already voted one time in the Senate to try to defund Planned Parenthood. We knew the President wouldn't sign such a bill, so it will not succeed."
This past August, Senate Democrats blocked an attempt to take federal funds away from Planned Parenthood and give them to women's health clinics that don't provide abortion services.
Those opposed to the bill on both sides of the political divide have said that the bill amounts to an attack on a woman's right to choose. The bill would have prevented any woman pregnant with fetuses containing fatal or debilitating abnormalities from terminating the pregnancy after 20 weeks, and would have imposed a 48-hour waiting period for victims of rape and incest who wanted an abortion after 20 weeks..
"Under this bill, Mr. President," Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins said at the Senate, "a doctor who performs such an abortion after 20 weeks to prevent grievous physical injury to the pregnant woman would be subject to criminal penalties of up to five years in prison. Do we really want to make a criminal out of a physician who is trying to prevent a woman with preeclampsia from suffering damage to her kidneys or liver or having a stroke or seizures?"
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