Lindsey Graham, Who Said He Didn’t Want A National Abortion Ban, Just Introduced One (But Doesn’t Want To Call It That)

Graham’s bill would still give states flexibility to ban abortions before 15 weeks — as has happened in Oklahoma, where almost all abortions are banned from the moment of fertilization — but it would constrain other more liberal states.

“Let’s be clear about what a bill like this would do — it could put a ban on abortion in place in every state in our country, including blue states that have laws protecting abortion rights and access on the books,” Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “This is about who gets to decide what’s right for our lives and our families. Should it be a person who is pregnant? Or Lindsey Graham and MAGA Republicans?”

Graham’s bill contains an exemption for victims of rape, but only if the pregnant person has obtained counseling or medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours before seeking an abortion, as well as to protect the life of the pregnant person. Minors who are victims of rape or incest would also be exempt if that crime has been reported to authorities.

The bill would also carve out an exemption for pregnant people whose lives are in danger, but this would not apply to “psychological or emotional conditions.”

Graham said his flip-flop on leaving abortion to the states was due to Democrats introducing a bill that Republicans said went too far. “Our legislation is a counter to their proposal,” Graham said. “I hope we get to debate on it and vote on it.”

A Wall Street Journal poll from earlier this month found the number of Americans who said they opposed a 15-week ban had risen from 43% in March to 57% before Roe was struck down.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, abortion has emerged as a major factor in November’s midterm elections with a surge in women registering to vote in many states. Republicans have been spooked by the apparent voter backlash, made evident by the high turnout and subsequent resounding defeat of a constitutional amendment to remove abortion protections in Kansas last month. As some GOP candidates even remove old language from their campaign websites in which they supported abortion bans, the Republican Party has instead been trying to keep voter and media attention on crime, immigration, and the economy — three subjects Graham himself named at Tuesday’s news conference.

The South Carolina senator framed his bill as a way to confront the abortion issue in the campaign season with a bill he feels will make Democrats look radical. “I’m sure this will come up and what I’m trying to tell my colleagues [is] that there is a consensus view by the most prominent pro-life groups in America, that this is where America should be at the federal level,” Graham said. “I don’t think this is going to hurt us.”

But Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told the Washington Post prior to the bill’s unveiling that she suspected Graham’s bill would serve as “the place to begin” because it could draw wide support and give their campaign “momentum.”

Democrats were quick to pounce on Graham’s bill, pointing to it as a harbinger of even stronger bills in the future.

“Senate Republicans are showing voters exactly what they would do if they are in charge: pass a nationwide abortion ban and strip away women’s right to make our own health care decisions,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Nora Keefe said.

With President Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, the bill currently stands no chance of becoming law, but Graham told reporters on Tuesday that he viewed this as the beginning of a long campaign.

“If we stay on this and keep talking about it, maybe less than a decade from now this will become law,” he said.

Anna Betts contributed reporting to this story.