(Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he would be "happy to take a look at" bringing a nationwide ban on abortions after the fetus is 20-weeks old. However, Reid, who has said he is pro-life, described the ban as a "fringe issue."
"They can offer an amendment, it's the Senate, and we'll take it up," Reid told host David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I'm asking on the substance," Gregory responded, "is it reasonable or unreasonable?"
"I think we should deal with the problems that affect this country," Reid answered. "We need to do something to help the American working class and stop worrying about fringe issues."
Unsatisfied with that answer, Gregory pressed again: "Is it unreasonable to put restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks?"
While avoiding any commitment to bring a bill up for a vote, Reid responded, "I'm happy to look at this. I repeat. Let's do things that the vast majority of the American people think we should deal with."
As Gregory noted in the interview, Reid has described himself in previous elections as pro-life. While in the Senate, he has voted in favor of a partial-birth abortion ban, a parental notification law, and a law that would make it illegal to transport a minor across states lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. Since becoming the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, though, Reid has done little to advance the pro-life cause.
Reid was asked about a 20-week ban in May, after abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted for delivering live, late-term babies, then killing them. Reid's answer was confusing, but seemed to suggest that the Gosnell trial demonstrated a need for fewer abortion restrictions.
"People have been pushed back into these holes to do something that is legal," he said. "I think all this picketing of these clinics, throwing chemicals into them to make them so you can't use them, can't get the chemicals out, all these restrictive laws. The law of the land now is what the Supreme Court has said. And I think to keep pushing these clinics back to situations where they wind up like this is wrong."
"I think that no matter how you stand on the issue of abortion, people who make that decision, should do it and not have to be worried about infections and some butcher like this doing the bad things he did. It should be in a place that's clean and sterile and have people that know what they're doing and care about what they do."
A 20-week abortion ban has already passed the House. An earlier version that would only apply to Washington, D.C., was introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes recently reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would sponsor a bill similar to the House version banning abortions after 20-weeks for the whole nation.
Arizona passed a 20-week ban and North Dakota passed a six-week ban earlier this year. The Texas legislature passed a 20-week ban last week after a second special session and Governor Rick Perry has said he will sign it.
A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll showed a strong majority of Americans, 59 percent, support the 20-week ban on abortions.