WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator seeking his party's 2016 presidential nomination introduced a bill Thursday banning most late-term abortions and is predicting the Senate will vote on the highly polarizing issue this year.
That's a vote that could put some GOP senators seeking re-election next year in closely divided states in a tough spot. But the measure's sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., offered little sympathy for candidates who would rather avoid the issue.
"Don't get into politics if you don't want to talk about things like this," Graham told journalists Thursday. "You're in the wrong line of business."
The House approved a similar measure by a near partyline vote in May, but it seems to stand little chance of becoming law soon.
Graham's bill would face a tough climb to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a likely Democratic filibuster in the Senate. And it would be highly unlikely to garner 67 votes needed to override an expected veto by President Barack Obama.
"What I want to do is make the American people think long and hard about wholesale abortions at 20 weeks," Graham said.
Like the House legislation, Graham's bill would make it illegal to perform most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
There would be exceptions to save the mother's life or if the mother was a rape victim who receives counseling or medical treatment at least 48 hours before the procedure. Also exempted would be minors who were victims of rape or incest and reported the incident to law enforcement or social service officials.
Graham and other supporters say there is scientific evidence that at 20 weeks fetuses can feel pain, giving the government a duty to save those lives. Opponents, including most Democrats and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, dispute that.
"Once again, Republicans are showing that they care more about scoring political points with their extreme base than they do about women's health and rights," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee.
By Thursday afternoon, Graham's office said his measure was co-sponsored so far by 45 of the Senate's 54 Republicans.
Of Republicans facing potentially tight re-election races next year, Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania were listed as co-sponsors. Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were not, though Ayotte spokeswoman Liz Johnson said the lawmaker was examining the measure.
Statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that just over 1 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Sen. Mark Kirk called fellow GOP senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham a "bro with no ho" on Thursday in Capitol Hill's latest hot mic episode.
The Illinois Republican told a colleague he's been joking around with lifelong bachelor Graham, R-S.C., 59, who recently kidded that he could have "a rotating first lady" if elected to the White House, starting with his sister, Darline Graham Nordone.
Kirk's remarks were caught as a Senate panel conducted a roll call vote and were captured by a live microphone.
The quip soon blew up on Twitter.
"This was a joke between friends," said Kirk spokeswoman Danielle Varallo, adding that Kirk apologized to anyone who was offended.
Graham seemed ready to move on from the episode, saying in a written statement, "Sen. Kirk said he regrets the comments. I believe that is the appropriate response."
The campaign of Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who is seeking her party's nomination to oppose Kirk, jumped on the comment.
"Senator Kirk's 'joke' is as offensive as it is unfunny, and he should apologize, personally and immediately," said campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.