As some Republicans have attempted to move away from the issue of abortion ahead of the midterms, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday introduced a nationwide restriction on the procedure.
The measure would restrict abortions across the country at 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, or if it is necessary to save the life of the mother. The rape exceptions also come with two stipulations: The victim must receive counseling and medical treatment at least 48 hours prior to the abortion.
"Abortion is not banned in America,” he said. “It’s left up to elected officials to define the issue. You have states and the ability to do it at the state level, and we have the ability in Washington to speak on this issue if we choose. I have chosen to speak.”
Graham made the announcement alongside Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and other advocates who oppose the procedure.
This isn’t the first time Graham has brought the bill, known as the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act, to the table. The most recent version, introduced in 2021, would have restricted the procedure at 20 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
Tuesday’s announcement marks the sixth time the South Carolina Republican has introduced the bill into the Senate.
The bill has very little chance of making it into law. It might not even make it to the floor of the Senate, with the chamber under Democratic control. Even then, it likely wouldn’t reach the 60 votes it would need to overcome a filibuster, and President Joe Biden would likely veto the bill in the unlikely event it reached his desk.
"If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill," Graham said. "If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill."
Graham indicated to reporters that he had not spoken to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the abortion ban.
In a statement shortly after Graham's announcement, the White House called the bill "wildly out of step with what Americans believe."
"Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote. "The President and Vice President are fighting for progress, while Republicans are fighting to take us back."
"President Biden and Congressional Democrats are committed to restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade in the face of continued radical steps by elected Republicans to put personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians instead of women and their doctors, threatening women’s health and lives," she added.
Despite the bill's long odds, the announcement still raised alarm among Democrats and abortion rights advocates.
On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., railed against the measure, calling it a "radical bill to institute a nationwide restriction on abortions."
"For the hard right, this has never been about states’ rights," the New York Democrat charged. "This has always been about making abortion illegal."
Schumer also pointed out that many Republicans – Graham included – said that the issue of abortion should be left up to the states.
"I've been consistent — I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion," Graham said on CNN in June.
"All of us in the conservative world have believed that there’s nothing in the Constitution giving the federal government the right to regulate abortion," the South Carolina Republican told Fox News that same month.
"Republicans are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to explain why they want nationwide abortion bans when they said they’d leave it up to the states," Schumer said Tuesday.
“It’s official. Republicans want a national abortion ban,” said California Rep. Eric Swalwell ahead of the announcement. “It was never about state rights. It’s about controlling women and mandating pregnancies.”
“Republicans in Congress are trying to impose a national abortion ban,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter ahead of Graham’s remarks. “McConnell stacked the Supreme Court with extremists to end Roe v. Wade. This is their latest assault on the health, freedom, & rights of every woman in America. We need to make Roe the law again.”
With less than two months to go until November’s midterm elections, voters have increasingly listed abortion as a top issue on their minds heading into the voting booths, leaving some Republicans backtracking on their stances on abortion.
Coming on the heels of a surprise blowout win for abortion rights in Kansas and Democratic victories in special elections following the Supreme Court’s reversal Roe v. Wade, some Republican candidates have attempted to soften their tone on abortion and even remove mentions of their stance from their campaign websites.
Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, for instance, recently scrubbed his campaign website of some of his hard-line messages on abortion, including a statement where he described himself as “100% pro-life.” He previously called abortion “demonic” during his primary and supported a federal personhood law to give unborn fetuses the rights of people.
Masters’ references to support of "a federal personhood law … that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed” was also removed from his website, per NBC News.
According to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, abortion is the top issue for Democrats in November's midterm contests (35%), and the No. 2 issue overall among all voters (22%) behind infllation (30%). The survey also found that 77% of Democrats and 58% of independents are more likely to vote due to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, compared to 42% of Republicans.
A recent poll from Pew Research Center found that 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.