Senate to Consider Unconstitutional Nationwide Abortion Ban at 20 Weeks

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(PRESS RELEASE) — As the government returns to work following a three-day shutdown amid uncertainty about how to keep the government funded past February 8, the Senate has instead decided to prioritize consideration of an unconstitutional nationwide ban on abortion at 20 weeks.

This ban violates longstanding Supreme Court precedent established in Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and contains only the narrowest exceptions for survivors of rape or incest while prohibiting doctors from providing care at the risk of federal criminal penalties, including up to five years in prison.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed cloture on the bill and a procedural vote could be as early as Monday.

Said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Time and again, the Supreme Court has affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. This is yet another attempt to undermine women’s health and decision making that won’t stand up in a court of law, or in the court of public opinion. This bill is both unconscionable and unconstitutional. We urge the Senate to reject this legislation.”

A House version of this same ban (H.R. 36) passed in October 2017. An earlier version of the ban passed the House in 2015, but was blocked by the Senate that same year. Bans like S.2311 have been repeatedly challenged in court and do not pass constitutional muster. The Supreme Court in 2016 refused to review North Dakota’s ban on abortion as early as 6 weeks of pregnancy and Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy had been struck down by lower courts. In 2014, the nation’s highest court refused to review Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy after it had been declared unconstitutional, and every federal court that has reached a decision on a pre-viability ban has blocked the rule from taking effect.