Abortions will continue to be legal past 20 weeks of pregnancy after Senate Republicans failed to garner enough votes for a ban today, the Hill reports. The final tally was 54-42 in favor of the measure—with three Democrats voting for it and two Republicans voting against it—but it needed 60 votes to move ahead. Supporters of the bill, which passed the House in May, say fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, reports NBC News. Critics say that such late abortions are rare but occasionally medically necessary and that the exemptions written into the bill—for rape, incest, and the safety of the mother—were too vaguely worded. Republican Susan Collins, who voted against the ban, says it would "make a criminal out of a physician" for trying to keep pregnant women from being seriously injured.
The Hill reports that even had the bill passed it likely would have been legally challenged, as federal courts have struck down similar state bans for violating the Supreme Court's protection of abortion rights. Harry Reid called the vote a "waste of time" and insinuated it was merely an attempt by Republicans to ingratiate themselves with the pope, who speaks at the Capitol Thursday, according to NBC. "I guess they want to do that before the pope gets here," he says. "But it's not going to change the pope, how he feels about the fact that Republicans have ignored poor people in America." Meanwhile, a contingent of anti-abortion Republicans is attempting to force a government shutdown Oct. 1 if Planned Parenthood isn't defunded. But the New York Times reports that Republican leaders in the Senate today made an "important breakthrough" in avoiding that by scheduling a vote on a temporary spending bill. (Read more abortion stories.)