US Senate rejects 20-week abortion ban; Gardner votes yes, Bennet no

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 19:29:38-05

DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., voted Monday on a procedural motion to open debate on a Republican proposal that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

Gardner was one of only a handful of Republican senators who had yet to cosponsor the Senate’s version of the measure, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The House passed its bill in October in a 237-189 vote, with all of Colorado’s Republican members of the House voting in favor, and all of its Democrats voting against it.

The Senate brought up the vote to end the filibuster and proceed to debate on the House-passed bill Monday, and it was widely seen as an attempt to put Democrats in states won by Trump on the record in an election year.

And though Gardner hadn’t cosponsored the measure, he was one of 51 votes in favor of proceeding to debate on it Monday. Two Republicans voted “no” Monday, while three Democrats voted “yes.”

However, the Senate needed 60 votes to break the filibuster, and by getting only 51, the bill died for the time being.

Had the Senate passed the measure, federal criminal code would have been amended so that performing, or attempting to perform, an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy would be a crime.

There were exceptions to the rule for life-saving measures of the mother, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. Also, the woman who was to have received the newly-illegal abortion would not face penalties.

However, any doctor or other person who tried or succeeded in aborting a fetus after 20 weeks would have faced a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted against proceeding to debate on the proposal. He’d said before the vote that he would do so because the measure “jeopardize[ed] a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.”

Gardner has been mostly mum on abortion issues since he took office as a senator following his election in 2014. He spent several years in the House beforehand, and was outspoken on anti-abortion efforts, cosponsoring bills like the “Life Begins at Conception Act.” But his Senate web page contains zero mentions of the word "abortion."

But ahead of the 2014 election, he disavowed his “personhood” stance that applied the same rights to fertilized eggs as human beings.

Democrats said it was an attempt by Gardner to curry favor in a tight election year, and when The Denver Post’s editorial board endorsed Gardner ahead of the election, it wrote: “[C]ontrary to [Mark] Udall’s tedious refrain, Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.”

Gardner’s office did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday’s vote. But NARAL Colorado, a pro-choice political group, slammed Gardner’s vote.

“@SenCoryGardner votes against CO women, CO doctors, and CO's longstanding pro-choice values. He will be held accountable. #copolitics #NoAbortionBan,” the group tweeted.