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Graham's abortion insult about Iran literally makes no sense

Trying to defend his proposal for a nationwide abortion ban, the South Carolina Republican tried to paint Iran as extreme on abortion. But its laws are similar to that of Republicans.


In his futile attempt to defend his proposal for a national abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which would supersede liberal states’ abortion freedoms but allow right-wing restrictions to stay in effect, Sen. Lindsey Graham took an odd dig at Iran. 

The South Carolina Republican, a longtime war hawk, is ever eager to paint Iran as an illiberal hellscape. But his comparison Tuesday was particularly rich. 

“There is a consensus view by the most prominent pro-life groups in America that this is where America should be at the federal level,” Graham said of his proposed abortion ban during a news conference. “I don’t think this is going to hurt us. I think it will more likely hurt [Democrats] when they try to explain to some reasonable person why it’s OK to be more like Iran and less like France on abortion.”

The problem there is that the Iranian government’s stance on abortion mirrors many Republicans’ view on the procedure, despite Graham’s effort to otherize the Middle Eastern country. Iran’s government ushered in a host of abortion restrictions just last year that effectively ban all abortions except in cases in which the mother’s health is endangered. But even that determination is largely left to a panel of health care bureaucrats. And the potential punishment for undergoing an unauthorized abortion could be as severe as death. Needless to say, the law has earned international condemnation. 

Here’s part of a statement the United Nations released calling Iran's laws “a huge blow to women’s human rights and gender equality”: 

Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human right law and is at the core of women and girls’ autonomy and ability to make their own choices about their bodies and lives, free of discrimination, violence and coercion.

This decision strips such autonomy from millions of women [...] in particular those with low incomes and those belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, to the detriment of their fundamental rights.

Oops, I’m sorry. That’s actually a statement the U.N. put out condemning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, which opened the door to outright bans on abortion. Feel free to read the world body's statement on the Iranian anti-abortion law here — and note the two releases are quite similar. That should obliterate whatever jingoism Graham was trying to channel with his remarks. 

France, for the record, bans abortion after 14 weeks, which — while restrictive — is still more lenient than many conservatives believe should be allowed. Graham’s bigotry is a sign of his desperation, which has likely been spurred by the overwhelming, bipartisan backlash to his idea. He can’t defend his proposal for a national abortion ban on its nonexistent merits, so he tried — pitifully — to tie its opponents to a brutal regime. 

But that brutal regime and Graham’s own party have more in common than the senator seems willing to acknowledge.