In ‘despicable show of cruelty’, Graham dismisses woman’s story of nonviable pregnancy

"He just turns away from her and starts yelling about Democrats to drown her out," said one rights advocate. "Sort of a metaphor for the Republican Party."

Sen. Lindsey Graham garnered condemnation from rights groups on Tuesday after brushing off a question from a woman who shared her personal story of a pregnancy that she found out was nonviable at 16 weeks, at a press conference where the South Carolina Republican proposed a nationwide 15-week abortion ban.

After Graham announced plans to introduce his most restrictive pro-forced pregnancy bill ever—despite mounting evidence that voters strongly disapprove of abortion bans and the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade—a woman asked what he would say to someone “who found out that their son had an anomaly that would make him incompatible with life at 16 weeks” of pregnancy.

“I had regular appointments, I did everything right,” said the woman. “And at 16 weeks we found out that our son would likely not live. When he was born, he lived for eight days. He bled from every orifice of his body, but we were allowed to make that choice for him. You would be robbing that choice from those women. What do you say to someone like me?”

Looking away from the woman, Graham replied that there “will be exceptions for life of the mother and rape and incest,” and talked over her when she pointed out that his proposal does not include exceptions in the case of a fetus which has serious or life-threatening health issues.

“The developed world has said that at this stage in the pregnancy, the child feels pain and we’re saying we’re gonna join the rest of the world and not be like Iran,” Graham said.

Healthcare advocate Kendall Brown called the senator’s response “a metaphor for the Republican Party.”

The senator did not point to any research stating that a fetus can feel pain at 15 weeks of pregnancy. In recent years, Republican lawmakers who have pushed “fetal pain” abortion bans have proposed bills that would prohibit abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

As The New York Times reported in 2013, “Most scientists who have expressed views on the issue have said they believe that if fetuses can feel pain, the neurological wiring is not in place until later, after the time when nearly all abortions occur.”

Graham also did not explain his claim that “the developed world” has banned abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Netherlands and Canada permit abortion before a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, which doctors say is at 24 weeks of gestation. Sweden permits abortion until 18 weeks and Iceland until 22 weeks. The only country Graham mentioned by name, Iran, severely restricts abortion care as the Republican Party plans to.

Reproductive justice group Reproaction accused Graham of a “despicable show of cruelty” to the woman who attended his press conference and said his comments on international abortion laws were “a racist dogwhistle.”

“Like all the propaganda he’s spewed today, it’s meant to harm and punish,” said the group. “We can’t let people fall for it. We can’t let this cruelty stand.”

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Julia Conley is a Common Dreams staff writer.

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