Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a proposal that reproductive rights defenders warned is a signal of the draconian policy agenda the GOP intends to pursue if it retakes Congress in the upcoming November midterms.
Graham (R-S.C.) has introduced national abortion ban legislation five times as a senator, but the new bill is his most restrictive yet as Republicans look to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s unpopular June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a ruling that imperiled the right to reproductive care across large swaths of the country.
The South Carolina Republican’s earlier measures “sought to ban abortions nationally from 20 weeks,” Axios reported late Monday.
Graham’s most recent 20-week abortion ban proposal garnered the support of 43 Republican senators. It’s not clear how many GOP lawmakers intend to back the proposed 15-week ban, which includes narrow exceptions.
“Republicans keep showing us who they are and what the future will be if they take the majority this fall,” tweeted the progressive advocacy group Indivisible. “Don’t count on polls to save us—nothing is certain until we vote.”
The Republican senator introduced the updated bill at a press conference Tuesday alongside anti-abortion leaders including Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
“Let’s be clear about what a bill like this would do—it could put a ban on abortion in place in every state in our country, including blue states that have laws protecting abortion rights and access on the books,” Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This is about who gets to decide what’s right for our lives and our families. Should it be a person who is pregnant? Or Lindsey Graham and MAGA Republicans?”
The GOP push for a nationwide abortion ban throws into sharp relief the stakes of the fast-approaching midterm contests, races in which Democrats could expand their Senate majority by electing abortion rights champions such as John Fetterman of Pennsylvania—or relinquish control to Republicans bent on eliminating reproductive freedoms.
“Senate Republicans are showing us exactly what they plan to do if they get power,” responded Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood. “It’s dangerous—and the stakes have never been higher. This election is critical. It’s going to take all of us.”
Graham is expected to characterize his bill as a late-term abortion ban, but The Washington Post‘s Caroline Kitchener stressed that “‘late-term abortion’ is not a medical term, but a political one deployed almost exclusively by the anti-abortion camp.”
“To the extent that it’s used,” Kitchener added, “it’s generally understood to refer to abortions after 24 weeks or so.”
Rights groups have warned a nationwide abortion ban would have disastrous health impacts. One recent analysis by experts at the University of Colorado Boulder estimated that prohibiting abortion outright at the federal level would increase the United States’ already-high maternal mortality rate by 24%.
“Republicans are now coming after the right to abortion at the federal level,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote on social media Tuesday. “Overturning Roe was never about giving power back to states—it was about controlling our bodies and our personal autonomy. We cannot let this happen.”
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