Lindsey Graham’s Abortion Ban Bill Is Bad Policy and Dumb Politics

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
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Lindsey Graham and his GOP wingnut cohorts are poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and perhaps even turn a predicted 2022 “red wave” into a Republican bloodbath.

On Tuesday, the South Carolina senator announced via press conference that if Republicans win the House and Senate, they will institute a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks, with narrow exceptions. Graham’s proposal would not only kneecap rights guaranteed by states that have moved to protect abortion access, it would also be a reversal of Graham’s own stance from back in June, when he said that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade meant that abortion access would be determined by individual states, as it should be.

Naturally, as an American woman of reproductive age, I had some questions.

The question foremost in my mind was: Who is this for?

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A nationwide abortion ban at a time like this is not only heartless policy, it’s stupid politics—all wrapped up in a bumbling, tone deaf presentation.

Sen. Graham’s bizarre choice to announce his “Just Kidding, Republicans Were Always Going to Try For A Federal Ban” strategy came as Republicans are on the ropes over this very issue. The threat of banning abortion has galvanized voters from California to Kansas. Special elections that were supposed to be safely Republican—or at least toss-up—have gone to Democratic candidates by wider than expected margins. Polling looks bad for the party of Lincoln.

Voters hate having their rights taken away so much that the abortion issue could even turn the 2022 midterm election on its head. What was supposed to be a cruise control-to-victory that handed Kevin McCarthy the speaker’s gavel and reactivated Mitch McConnell’s key card access to the Senate Majority Leader Lair is now looking increasingly unlikely.

Republicans know this. Even the crazy ones. In Arizona, senate candidate Blake Masters’ website scrubbed mentions of his hardline abortion stance (he supports a federal “personhood” amendment that would declare all fertilized eggs to be “persons” from the moment of conception, a stance so extreme that Mississippi voters rejected it ten years ago). In Washington, Republican senate hopeful Tiffany Smiley has tried to “walk a fine line,” both supporting the total abortion ban in Texas and promising voters that she thinks the decision should be left up to the states.

Some media outlets have covered this phenomenon as a reflection of a “softening” of Republicans’ abortion stance in response to public outcry. If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

The winning message for Democrats in the 2022 midterms is that a vote for a Republican, no matter where they are on the ballot and no matter what they say, is a vote for a rollback of abortion rights. Republicans will say whatever it takes to win elections, and then do whatever they’ve been promising their donors and hardliners behind closed doors. Full stop.

And here’s Lindsey Graham making sure the GOP’s aims to ban abortion stays in the headlines.

Even if some bonkers GOP internal polling showed that Graham has a Harry Styles-like hold on the American undecided voter, it’s clear from the staging of Graham’s press conference that even his staff didn’t believe Graham had the charisma to carry it himself.

That must have been why whoever choreographed that political stunt decided to decorate the stage with women—all of whom managed to look simultaneously smug, dour, and nuts. Like a bauble necklace made of the most hated members of several Homeowners’ Associations. One of those baubles was Star Parker, a fringe gadfly who briefly made media headlines back in 2017 when, as a guest on Fox and Friends, she compared the confederate flag to a gay pride flag.

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Graham’s puzzling presser was executed with the empathy of the antagonist from the Saw franchise delivering a terminal cancer diagnosis. It was stunningly uncompassionate. When one female reporter recounted a traumatic nonviable pregnancy that resulted in suffering for her and her family, Graham dismissed her concerns. “The world has pretty much spoken on this issue,” he said. Graham apparently only prepared one rebuttal for any pushback he’d get on a nationwide abortion ban, which is “That’s how they do it in Europe.”

Like a fuckboy who returns from backpacking in Germany and tries to pressure his girlfriend into having a threesome but, despite his alleged newfound appreciation for Old World mores, still really phones it in when it comes to cunnilingus, Graham has never expressed similar admiration for the way they do other things in Europe. Over there, they have paid maternity (and, in some places, paternity) leave, robust free or low-cost preschool, and universal healthcare. Lindsey Graham doesn’t support any of those things. I guess he just wants us to emulate Europe in ways that it sucks.

Graham’s baffling announcement Tuesday called to mind another time he famously caped for an issue that fired up a lot of American women, but not the women he wanted: Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.

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Back in 2018, the senate was under Republican control, meaning it was Republicans who refused to even allow time to investigate serious claims of sexual misconduct in an eventual Supreme Court justice’s past before rushing to confirm him. But it was Graham who tried the hardest to show the most rage about the fact that those accusations existed in the first place, throwing a tantrum worthy of the Target Halloween candy aisle during Kavanaugh’s hearings.

We all remember what happened next. A month out from the 2018 midterm elections, Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 vote. But then, what some analysts had predicted would be a tough map for Democrats became a historic “blue wave” in the House. While Graham can’t take credit for the surge of Democratic gains, he certainly was on the wrong side of history there. Loudly.

Now, four years later, mere months Kavanaugh joined the 6-3 conservative majority in overturning Roe, one of Lindsey Graham’s hobby horses is again front and center. As a staunch advocate for reproductive justice, I can’t help but hope these Beltway knuckleheads keep bringing up how out of step they are with the American people on abortion. It saves me a lot of work.

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