Senate Republicans Flee From Graham’s National Abortion Ban

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). (Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

Shortly after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveiled his 15-week national abortion ban, with much hoopla and flanked by anti-abortion activists, his Republican peers started backing away from his proposal. 

“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when asked if he’d schedule the bill for a vote, should Republicans win the Senate. 

Graham on Tuesday summarily upended the Republican refrain ever since the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in Dobbs: that killing Roe was actually democratic, and would return the contentious issue to the states, where it belongs. 

Instead, Graham introduced a nationwide ban, draping it in the anti-abortion lingo of “fetal pain,” “late-term abortion” and “unborn child.” 

The bill would not supersede state or local bans more draconian than the 15-week model, meaning that if it ever passed, stricter red state laws would be left standing. Blue states, however, would have a 15-week ban imposed upon them.    

It has exemptions for pregnancies from rape and incest, if they’ve been reported to specific entities, and for threats to the woman’s life.

“That wasn’t a conference decision,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Politico. “It was an individual senator’s decision.”

Democrats seized upon the bill as proof of what they’ve been warning: that if Republicans win Congress and the White House, they’ll quickly pass a national abortion ban. 

“For MAGA Republicans, this has always been about making abortion illegal everywhere,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Tuesday morning on the Senate floor.

Democratic candidates got in on the action too. 

“Can you rush $5 right now to send John Fetterman to the U.S. Senate so he can become the 51st vote to scrap the filibuster + codify Roe v. Wade?” read a Tuesday afternoon fundraising blast from Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman with the subject line “Lindsey Graham just introduced national abortion ban.” “Your donation will help him defeat Dr. Oz, who literally called all abortion ‘murder.’”

Graham had introduced 20-week bans before, but indicated at his Tuesday press conference that he’d adjusted after the Supreme Court let Mississippi’s 15-week ban stand.

His remarks were full of popular false claims propagated by anti-abortion activists: that fetuses can feel pain at 15 weeks (medical consensus is that they have not developed the structures necessary to feel pain until at least the third trimester), that this bill would put the United States on par with Europe (abortion is much more accessible in Europe generally, and even most gestational bans there have more liberal exemptions than their U.S. counterparts) and that 15-week abortions are incredibly common (per CDC data from 2019, 93 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester). 

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

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