Spoiler alert: the Senate is not going to pass a 20 week federal ban on abortions. So why, you may wonder, are there 33 Republicans allegedly making a push to get a vote to happen?
Simple. It’s election time.
The 20 week abortion ban has become the go to bill for politicians, who believe that this tiny incremental assault on Roe v. Wade by restricting abortion just a teensy bit before the constitutionally drawn viability line will crack open the door for a further assault on all legal abortion down the road. Backed by medically inaccurate claims and chubby faced fetal ultrasound images as stage props, abortion opponents have equated abortion even prior to viability with child sacrifice and politicians who support the current constitutional standards with baby murderers.
Due to a pro-choice majority, there is absolutely no way that a ban on abortion in any form is going to pass the current Senate, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from urging action on a vote over and over and over again. Since currently Congress’ favorite sport is obstruction, it’s not surprising that we are are seeing focus yet again move to another bill that has absolutely no chance of passing the chamber, much less ever being signed into law.
With a GOP that has been moved so far to the right, the fact that the body could only get 33 of the 45 members of the caucus to sign onto a letter urging a vote on an abortion ban is a pretty interesting fact. With that in mind, the list of those who signed the letter pushing for a vote on a ban is a fascinating study of who does and doesn’t feel vulnerable heading into the midterms, and who is jockeying for position already when it comes to a potential 2016 presidential run.
Both New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and South Carolina Governor Lindsay Graham, who are spearheading the letter urging “colleagues” for support, have strong reasons to want to be seen leading the effort. Graham was previously threatened by a number of Tea Party primary challengers, and although that threat is receding, pushing for legislation so dear to groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, who is clamoring for the vote, may help keep him ahead of his even more far right competition. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who also has been threatened by a Tea Party primary challenger, has the same impetus to respond to SBA’s plea, and he has done so as well.
Ayotte, like the only other Republican woman to sign the letter, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, has no reason to fear this November since she is not up for election. However, getting on the good side of an anti-abortion political action group that nominally embraces female candidates and is also likely to be highly involved once the 2016 presidential election gets underway is a smart move for any female GOP politician with White House aspirations. The two other GOP women senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, didn’t sign on.
Then there is the question of those Republicans who didn’t put themselves on the list publicly declaring they wanted a 20 week ban. Do they not want a ban because they feel a 20 week ban is too restrictive, or not restrictive enough? The fact that neither senator from Georgia signed on to the Ayotte/Graham letter may actually be an act of politicians unhappy with any bill that doesn’t make abortions illegal at every stage, an issue that ended up tearing apart the anti-abortion movement in that state just a month earlier.
Whatever reason Republican senators did or did not sign on to publicly support a 20 week abortion ban, the circus will continue regardless. Despite the fact that a bill will never pass the Senate, would be vetoed even if it did, and even if it wasn’t would still officially be unconstitutional, Sen. Lindsey Graham insists that the issue will be pushed soon as their means of marking the one year anniversary of the conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who performed illegal abortions and is serving time in jail after being found guilty of murder.
Ironically, a 20 week ban would not likely have stopped Gosnell, who was already performing abortions against the law as it were. But when your real goal is to score points for an upcoming election, rather than spend time debating bills that would actually become law, stagecraft and messages are far more important than actual results.
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