Sen. Lindsey Graham, GOP pushes new nationwide ban on abortion after 15 weeks

·3 min read

WASHINGTON — Republicans want to go national with an abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Most GOP lawmakers had argued that the high court’s nullification of abortion rights didn’t mean an end to all abortion in the United States. They said that it just returned the issue to the states, where they said it belongs, and uniformly opposed a Democratic bill to write the stricken Roe standard into law nationally.

But on Tuesday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham unveiled a bill dubbed the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” that would ban abortion everywhere — including states such as New York — by prohibiting the procedure after 15 weeks.

“Democrats wanted a national standard, and their standard was basically abortion up to the time of birth, putting you in the Iran and Syria club. So now we’re going to talk about what the nation should be like,” Graham said, repeating a frequent GOP exaggeration of the Democratic position.

Graham’s move comes as many states have moved aggressively to end all or nearly all access to abortion care, which has roiled women’s lives and sparked political pushback. In upstate New York, newly elected Rep. Pat Ryan won his recent special election, overcoming a favored Republican largely by highlighting the abortion issue.

Graham suggested that his bill, which has exceptions for rape, incest and to protect a woman’s life, will actually help Republicans by giving them a more moderate piece of legislation to point to than the more extreme bans in the states.

“There’s a narrative forming in America that the Republican Party and the pro life movement is on the run. No, no, no, no. We’re going nowhere,” Graham said. “We welcome the debate.”

Nevertheless, public opinion has been shifting in Democrats’ favor since the Supreme Court ruling, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer seized on Graham’s intentions to cast Republicans as hypocrites who are indeed bent on eliminating women’s ability to determine their own health decisions.

“Proposals like the one today send a clear message from MAGA Republicans to women across the country: Your body, our choice,” Schumer said in Senate floor remarks. “Rather than expanding women’s rights, MAGA Republicans would curtail them.”

Graham’s bill would prohibit the prosecution of women who try to get abortions, but would create a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for doctors.

The bill will not pass the Senate in the current session with Democrats in charge, and would be unlikely to pass next year unless Republicans can will 10 seats.

But Graham said he was focused on the long haul, and repeatedly said he believed most Americans would support his ban.

Still, the political danger involved was made readily apparent by a woman who crashed his event, asking what would happen to women like her after she discovered her unborn son had severe medical problems at 16 weeks.

Ashby Beasley, from Highland Park, Ill., said doctors told her that her baby boy would almost certainly die, and suggested to Graham that his bill would rob her of the right to spare her family and that baby pain.

“He lived for eight days and he bled from every orifice of his body, but we were allowed to make that choice for him. You would be robbing that choice,” Beasley said. “What do you say to someone like me?”

Graham did not answer directly.

“The world has pretty much spoken on this issue. The developed world has said at this stage of pregnancy the child feels pain, and we’re saying we’re going to join the rest of the world,” Graham said.

And as much as Democrats promise to make abortion an election issue, Graham said Republicans would, too.

“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill.”