Two weeks after a federal appeals court ruled a ban on abortion at 20 weeks is unconstitutional, South Carolina senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham reintroduced a federal version. Again.
The main difference from the last time is that the Senate is now controlled by Republicans, so in theory Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can bring the bill to a floor vote, something Senator Harry Reid has refused to do. And this time, Graham is running for president. But even if it does go to the Senate, it likely doesn’t have the votes to pass, and President Obama has vowed to veto it.
“I don’t believe abortion, five months into pregnancy, makes us a better nation. I look forward to leading this long-overdue effort and pushing for a roll call vote in the Senate,” Graham said in a statement. About 1.2% of all abortions take place after 20 weeks. States are currently allowed to ban abortion after viability, which is four to six weeks later than Graham’s ban, as long as they have exceptions for a woman’s health and life. Bans like the one introduced by Graham are premised on the notion, disputed by the vast majority of medical evidence, that fetuses feel pain at that stage. Eleven states have passed such bans.
But abortion opponents are playing a long game. Bills that focus on later abortion may not immediately pass or even affect the majority of abortions, but in the meantime, Democrats are meant to be put on the defensive about “painful” later abortions. Graham made this clear when he alluded in his statement to two earlier bills that took years for Republicans to pass: “Today is the start of a journey, much like the one we used to pass the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. I have no doubt the legislation will one day be passed by Congress and signed into law. “
In January, Republican women in the House revolted over a provision in the bill that required rape survivors to report their violations to the police before qualifying for an exemption from the law, forcing Republican leaders to cancel a vote planned to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The House of Representatives passed a version of the 20-week ban in May without the rape reporting requirement, but with the addition of a 48-hour waiting period and required counseling.
Democrats and pro-choice groups NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement Thursday, “Sen. Graham’s bill is not about policy. It is about politics. He is choosing to use his position in the Senate to advance an abortion ban to bolster his long-shot White House bid in a shameless play to early state ultra-conservative voters. We have seen this playbook over and over from anti-choice Republicans up and down the ballot.”