Lindsey Graham mansplains his federal abortion ban: 'I picked 15 weeks.' Got it, ladies?

Former states' rights proponent Sen. Lindsey Graham, flaunting his talent for opportunistic flip-flopping, began explaining his legislation for a federal 15-week abortion ban like this: “I picked 15 weeks …”

Watching a man say “I picked” as it relates to legislation controlling women's reproductive rights was both tone-deaf and perfectly on-brand for a political party that has seen its fortunes in the upcoming midterm elections turn from fabulous to meh, thanks in large part to abortion rights returning as a central issue for voters after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Graham was flanked Tuesday by several women from groups that oppose abortions, but the “I picked” line – delivered by a uterus-free, childless, nondoctor politician – stood out, almost overshadowing the hypocrisy and disingenuous language of the proposed legislation.

Graham believes absolutely in states' rights ...

Back in June, Graham firmly told Fox News that states should decide abortion laws: “All of us in the conservative world have believed that there’s nothing in the Constitution giving the federal government the right to regulate abortion.”

In May, Graham tweeted: “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which I believe was one of the largest power grabs in the history of the Court, it means that every state will decide if abortion is legal and on what terms. That, in my view, is the most constitutionally sound way of dealing with this issue and the way the United States handled the issue until 1973.”

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Well, Graham and others in the Republican Party got their wish. Roe was overturned on June 24, allowing, as Graham noted in his tweet, every state to “decide if abortion is legal and on what terms.”

... except when he doesn't believe in states' rights

Now, only a few months later, Graham has had a change of heart about that whole “states' rights” thing. What the senator’s legislation proposes is a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, one that allows more restrictive state abortion laws to stay in place. So if you’re a state with an abortion ban under 15 weeks of pregnancy, states' rights prevail. If you’re a state with no abortion ban, federal law prevails.

That all makes perfect sense, as long as you’re willing to twist your brain into a pretzel and hold your breath for five minutes.

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Any doubt the GOP will seek a national abortion ban disappeared

The 15-week threshold Graham proposes won’t mean much. The legislation – which has no chance of being brought up for a vote while Democrats control Congress – will be framed by Democratic lawmakers as evidence that Republicans, should they take over Congress, will pursue a national ban on abortion.

During his announcement, Graham said this: “If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill. If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”

One has to wonder whether Graham has taken up a side gig working for Democratic ad makers.

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Polling and voter registration show abortion is a central issue

The backlash following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe has been more intense and politically damaging than Republicans expected. Recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation found a 14 percentage point increase "in the share who say abortion will be ‘very important’ to their 2022 midterm vote (59% in February to 73% in July)” and that 6 in 10 voters ages 18-49 say "they are 'more motivated’ to vote because of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Women in a number of swing states are registering to vote in droves.

Abortion-rights supporters cheer as the proposed Kansas constitutional amendment fails on Aug. 2, 2022.
Abortion-rights supporters cheer as the proposed Kansas constitutional amendment fails on Aug. 2, 2022.

Republicans tried to downplay abortion, then along came Lindsey!

So Republican lawmakers and candidates have been working hard to downplay talk of a federal abortion ban, with some even scrubbing past abortion positions and comments from their websites.

Graham strolling up to a microphone Tuesday and man-troducing abortion legislation was clearly not what many in the GOP had in mind.

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“I’m not sure what he’s thinking here,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told Politico. “But I don’t think there will be a rallying around that concept.”

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Politico: “That wasn’t a conference decision. It was an individual senator’s decision.” He added that his “preference would be for those decisions to be made on a state-by-state basis.”


Quiet now, the men are busy legislating

Oh well, what’s important for all Republicans and particularly for women across America is this: Lindsey Graham has picked the point at which women should stop having control over decisions relating to their own pregnancy, even if it meant sacrificing his long-held belief in states' rights.

HE picked it. And who better to make decisions like this than an unmarried South Carolina man with no children?

More humor and satire from Rex Huppke:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sen. Lindsey Graham calls for abortion ban. What about states' rights?