US senator unveils national abortion ban after 15 weeks
Continuing the political debate, Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a national abortion ban on Tuesday, sending shockwaves through both parties and reigniting debate on a fraught issue weeks before midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.
Graham’s GOP leaders did not immediately pass his abortion ban bill, which would have banned the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions, and has little chance of becoming law in the Democratic-controlled Congress. Democrats torched it as a worrisome signal of where “MAGA” Republicans will be headed if they win control of the House and Senate in November.
“America has to make some decisions,” Graham said at a news conference at the Capitol.
The South Carolina Republican said that instead of avoiding this summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade, Republicans are preparing to fight for a national federal law to ban abortion.
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, we’re not going anywhere,” the senator said as he was surrounded by female anti-abortion advocates. “We welcome the debate. We welcome the vote in the United States Senate on what America should look like in 2022.”
The backlash was swift, furious and unflinching from Democrats, who saw Graham’s legislation as an extreme example of the far-right’s influence on the Republican Party and as a political gift of self-inflicted pain for Republican candidates who now have to answer questions about the banning title. abortions to the midterm elections.
“A nationwide ban on abortion — that’s the contrast between the two parties, plain and simple,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who is running for re-election, said Republicans “want to force” women to get pregnant and give birth.
“For anyone who thought they were safe, here is the painful reality,” she said. “Republicans are coming for your rights.”
The sudden turn of events comes in a tense election season, as Republicans hoping to win control of Congress struggle to regain momentum, especially after a landmark Supreme Court decision sparked deep concern among some voters, with signs women voters peel away from the GOP.
In a midterm election where the party outside the White House traditionally has the upper hand, even more so this year with President Joe Biden’s weak approval ratings, Democrats have regained their own momentum, pushing back GOP candidates in House and Senate races.
Tuesday’s announcement created an immediate split screen with Biden and Democrats poised to celebrate their accomplishments at a White House ceremony following the passage of the Anti-Inflation Act and Republicans forced to answer Graham’s proposed abortion ban.
“This bill is completely at odds with what Americans believe,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“While President Biden and Vice President Harris are focused on the historic passage of the Deflation Act to reduce prescription drug, health care and energy costs — and take unprecedented action to address climate change — Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women,” said Jean-Pierre.
Graham’s legislation has almost zero chance of becoming law, but raises the issue of abortion at a time when other Republicans would rather focus on inflation, border security and Biden’s leadership.
The Republican bill would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest or a risk to the mother’s physical health. Graham said that would put the US on par with many countries in Europe and around the world.
In particular, Graham’s bill would leave in place state laws that are more restrictive. That provision is notable because many Republicans have argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling leaves the abortion issue up to the states. But the Republican legislation makes clear that states are allowed to address the issue only if their abortion bans are made stricter.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is one seat away from majority control, has refused to take up Graham’s legislation.
“I think every Republican senator running this year in these contested races has an answer to how they feel about it,” McConnell said. He said most GOP senators prefer the issue be handled at the state rather than federal level. “So I leave it up to our candidates, who are quite capable of dealing with this problem, to determine for them what their answer is.”
The Democratic senators most at risk this fall and other Democratic candidates running for Congress appeared eager to fight Graham’s proposed national abortion ban.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, tweeted that Graham “and any other anti-choice extremist can take a march.”
Her Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, insisted during his campaign that abortion is protected in the state constitution, which may no longer be in this bill.
In Colorado, another Democrat running for re-election, Sen. Michael Bennett, tweeted: “The statewide abortion ban is outrageous. “
Bennett pledged to “defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, no matter what zip code she lives in.” We can’t afford to let the Republicans take back the Senate.”
His opponent in Colorado, Republican Joe O’Dea, who supports enacting the abortion access that was guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, agreed in part: “The Republican ban is as reckless and tone-deaf as Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer’s hostility to considering any compromise on late-term abortions, parental notification or conscience protections for religious hospitals.”
Races for control of Congress are tight in the split 50-50 Senate, where one seat determines majority control, and in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose just a few seats.
Pelosi called Graham’s bill “the clearest signal yet of the intent of extreme MAGA Republicans to criminalize women’s health freedom in all 50 states and arrest doctors for providing essential care.” Make no mistake: Given the chance, Republicans will work to pass laws even more draconian than this bill.
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have tried to hold the party together amid the differences.
“I think what he’s trying to do is probably change the conversation a little bit,” said Sen. John Thune, Republican of South Dakota and the second-ranking party leader.
“Democrats are implying that all Republicans are pro-ban without exception, and that’s not true,” Thune said. “There are Republicans who support restrictions. And I think it’s an attempt to at least put something out there that reflects the views of a lot of Republicans who support some restrictions.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking in Washington and Nick Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.