Alaska’s US senators split on abortion vote

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The U.S. Senate on Monday rejected a bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of only two Republicans to vote “no” on the procedural motion.

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Murkowski says she opposes late-term abortion and could be in favor of a ban on elective procedures after 20 weeks, provided the bill has adequate exceptions, in cases of rape and incest, or if the woman is at risk of grave harm to her health. Murkowski says the bill fell short.

“I think there are some exceptions that have been included that are very narrow, and in my view almost unworkable,” Murkowski said, immediately after the vote.

Murkowski says the bill was an effort to send a political message, rather than a realistic effort to pass a limitation on the procedure. If there had been an opportunity to amend the bill, supporters might have picked up more votes, including hers, Murkowski said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan voted yes, as did most Republicans, including Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. Ernst says a fetus at that stage is a child.

“At five months, babies have grown nails on their fingers and on their toes, hair has just begun to grow on their heads,” Ernst said, “And an ultrasound can tell an expectant mother and father whether their baby is a boy or a girl. ”

As expected, the procedural vote fell far short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. The tally was 51 to 46.