Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Tuesday proposed a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions, adding to the furious debate on one of the central issues in the midterm election.
Banning abortion has been a prime motivating force for Republican voters for years, but the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down a national right to an abortion has energized the Democrats’ base ahead of the November vote that will decide control of Congress.
“If we take back the House and Senate, I’ll assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Graham said at a news conference in Washington with representatives of national anti-abortion organizations.
His legislation includes exceptions for rape or incest or to save the mother’s life. It is more stringent than bills Graham has introduced in previous years that would have made abortion illegal after 20 weeks. The bill isn’t likely to get far in the Democratic-controlled Congress this year.
Since the high court’s decision, Republican-controlled states across the South and Midwest have enacted strict restrictions or bans on abortion. Graham’s proposals would leave in place more restrictive state laws. More than six in 10 Americans support keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, according to polling by the Pew Research Center, and a majority say they disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v Wade. But there is a sharp divide on the issue between Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats quickly seized on Graham’s announcement. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “radical” and pointed out that Graham in May said that states should decide the issue.
“Proposals like the one today send a clear message from MAGA Republicans to women across the country: your body, our choice,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, referring to former President Donald Trump’s movement. “Rather than expanding women’s rights, MAGA Republicans would curtail them.”
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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that Graham’s bill “is wildly out of step with what Americans believe.”
Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Republican senator, said the bill would counter Democratic messaging that Republicans want to ban all abortions.
“There are a lot of Americans out there who are in favor of reasonable restrictions,” Thune said. “How you define this matters, and Democrats are trying to define it that all Republicans are in favor of an outright ban.”
While he hasn’t spoken to Graham on the issue, he sees it as “an attempt to give Republican candidates running for office this year something to be for that represents a reasonable middle ground.”
However, one Republican strategist, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss internal party discussions, said Graham’s bill would be welcomed by Democrats as a distraction from the economy and inflation, issues that have favored the GOP.
Moves by states to outlaw abortion have triggered a backlash. Voters in solidly Republican Kansas soundly defeated an abortion ballot measure and the number of women registering to vote has jumped in key midterm battleground states. That may help Democrats limit Republican gains in the midterms. While the GOP is likely to win a House majority, most independent analysts say the contest for Senate control is a toss-up.
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But even if Republicans control both the Senate and House, they would have a very narrow Senate majority in 2023 and 2024 and wouldn’t be able to overcome a Democratic filibuster or overturn a veto by President Joe Biden.