Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill on Tuesday that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the most significant proposal by Republicans in Congress to shorten the procedure since the Supreme Court. overturned Roe v. Wade three months ago.
Democratic Senate candidates immediately tried link to his Republican opponents to Graham’s bill, but the South Carolina Republican defended his legislation as a bulwark against late-term abortions.
“I think the Democrats made a huge mistake by introducing legislation in Washington that would basically allow abortion up to the moment of birth,” Graham told CNN. “Now we have an alternative to that.”
The court’s decision in June sparked a nationwide fight to define legal rights to abortion, after it found a constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years ago.
In May, the Senate failed to advance a Democratic bill that establishes the federal right to terminate a pregnancy until the fetus is viable, or later if there is “a risk to the life or health of the pregnant patient.” (Fetal viability occurs around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.) Graham’s bill, which has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, makes exceptions for abortions necessary to protect the life of the mother, and if the woman becomes pregnant through rape or incest.
Senate Republicans were slow Tuesday to agree to Graham’s plan.
“I’ll see,” said Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the Senate Republican campaign committee.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who is in a tough re-election race, did not respond directly when asked if he supports Graham’s bill. Johnson said abortion laws should be decided by “we the people” in all 50 states. The Supreme Court’s decision resurrected Wisconsin’s abortion ban, which was passed in 1849.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Republican whip, defended the new legislation, saying it will give GOP candidates a “place to land” as Democrats criticize them on the issue. He said most Republicans favor abortion restrictionsNot an outright ban. Thune told CNN that he supported the 15-week ban.
“I hope there’s pretty good support for that among, you know, pro-life Republicans and maybe some pro-life Democrats,” Thune said.
“I also think because the Democrats have tried to turn this into a one-sided argument that represents their singular worldview, which is that all Republicans are in favor of an outright ban,” Thune added. “I think this changes that narrative and gives candidates a place to be for something that reflects their views and doesn’t fit the Democrats’ narrative.”
But Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the GOP leadership, had a different take on Graham’s bill.
“I think there will be some differences of opinion,” Cornyn said. “My preference is for each state to handle those issues.”
When asked why he thought Graham introduced the legislation, Cornyn replied, “Ask Senator Graham.”
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis said he wanted to “focus on” inflation: the The consumer price index rose 8.3% from August 2021 through last month, even as gasoline prices declined, and a potential strike of railway workers.
“That’s what we should be focusing on,” Tillis added.
And Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a third member of the GOP leadership, said he supported Graham’s previous anti-abortion proposals, but did not respond directly when asked if it was politically advantageous for the GOP to introduce such a bill. law before the midterm elections.
The division within the Senate Republican conference in Washington spilled over into the election campaign. Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for the Georgia Senate, said he supports the 15-week abortion ban, writing in a statement: “The issue needs to be decided at the state level, but I WOULD SUPPORT this policy.” Asked to clarify whether Walker would vote for a federal bill like Graham’s despite saying the states should decide the issue, a spokesperson for Walker responded, “Sounds clear to me, that’s why it says ‘support’.”
But Joe O’Dea, the Republican candidate for Senate from Colorado, said he opposed the legislation and called on Congress to “pass a bill that protects a woman’s right to choose in the early stages of pregnancy,” while setting “sensible limits on non-medically necessary, late-term abortion.”
Democratic Senate candidates immediately seized on Graham’s bill. Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who is running against Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, asked his opponent if he would support the legislation. He and other candidates, including Rep. Val Demings in Florida and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, were quick to promote his own pro-choice views.
“The Republicans’ national abortion ban will be on the ballot, in every Senate race,” said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “The Republican Party has once again demonstrated the threat it poses to women’s right to make their own health care decisions, and voters will make their voices heard by supporting Senate Democrats in November.”
It’s unclear whether Republicans would put the Graham bill on the Senate floor if they win back the chamber this fall.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Thune told CNN. “My expectation, as I said before, is that everything we put in the room is 60 votes, and there’s no 60 votes, probably for nothing at this point on either side.”
House Republicans also plan to introduce a 15-week abortion ban bill. House Republican leaders have not committed to putting the measure on the floor if they regain a majority, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy previously told CNN that he supports banning 15-week abortions. .
McCarthy’s “Pledge to America,” a policy and messaging document that he will formally release next week, makes only a passing reference to abortion, according to a source familiar with the document.
The document says Republicans “will protect the lives of unborn children and mothers,” the source said.
This story has been updated with additional developments.