About a month ago, House Republicans were juggling a variety of pressing issues, but they found time to tackle one of their top legislative priorities. In a near party-line 242-184 vote, the chamber approved the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” better known as the GOP’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Today, the Senate will begin the process of having a related fight on the same policy. Politico reported overnight:
Sen. Lindsey Graham is renewing a GOP push for a 20-week abortion ban – a bid that could boost his long-shot presidential campaign but spell trouble for vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection in swing states next year. […]The abortion push is already causing some grumbling among some Republican senators who say the party should steer clear of a pitched battle over social policy that will never get past President Barack Obama’s veto pen even if it somehow managed to break a filibuster.
As a political matter, Graham and his allies seem to realize they’re picking a culture-war fight whose outcome has already been decided. Everyone, regardless of their perspective, already knows this bill will not become law in this Congress. It probably won’t even get a floor vote in the Senate.
So why bother? For Graham, the fight offers an opportunity to impress far-right activists who vote in Republican presidential caucuses and primaries. Pushing his vulnerable allies in the Senate GOP to vote for an abortion ban before their re-election bids isn’t ideal, but Graham believes it’s worth it.
As a policy matter, the effort is a mess. Regular readers may recall that since roughly 99% of abortions occur before the 21st week of a pregnancy, these later terminations often involve “rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman’s health.” It’s why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is so strongly against proposals like these.
Also, though the details of Graham’s proposal are not yet available, if it mirrors the House bill it will include what is effectively a waiting period for rape victims – Congress wants to extend the time women have to consider whether they want to bear their rapist’s child – and instructs medical professionals on how they’re supposed to perform abortions.
More broadly, I occasionally hear commentary about the political debate looking past social issues, and yet, anti-abortion legislation recently passed in North Carolina. It’s advancing in Wisconsin. Texas’ over-the-top anti-abortion law was just upheld by far-right judges on the 5th Circuit. These are just the developments from the last few days.
This isn’t the kind of story that generates front-page attention, but the Republicans’ focus remains clear.