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(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - There is a new fight over abortion in Washington. Republican senators introduced a bill Thursday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, arguing that babies at that stage can now survive on their own.
Whether this fight will help or further damage the Republican party is one question. The other is about science and ethics in 2013.
Should advances in medicine mean less choice on abortion?
The proposal is for a federal ban on women ending pregnancies after 20 weeks. The current ban is 24 weeks.
Children born at 20 weeks now, in rare cases, can survive. Backers of a new ban believe fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks.
"If you can feel pain, the government should protect you from being destroyed by an abortion, which I imagine would be a very painful way to die," said Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham from South Carolina.
Opponents say that fetuses cannot feel pain and that few can survive on their own at 20 weeks.
"Why not 15? Why not 6? Why not 2? Why not criminalize all abortion altogether?" asked Terry O'Neill of the National Organization for Women.
Democratic lawmakers are furious.
"The extreme and dangerous 20-week abortion ban is not going anywhere in the Senate," said Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer from California.
Most women voters in Virginia Tuesday rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who backed more restrictions on abortion.
But a new Quinnipiac poll finds 55 percent of Americans agree with a 20-week limit.
Conservative activist Anna Higgins of the Family Research Council says an abortion fight could heal the Republican party.
"A full 80 percent of Americans support banning late term abortion," she said.
Now comes a new debate over whether "late term" is five months or six months.
Lindsay Graham says his 20-week ban is a cause, not a plan to unify Republicans or win over Democrats.