- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, reignited the debate on the abortion issue Tuesday with a bill to prohibit most procedures after 15 weeks’ gestation, drawing a mixed response from Republicans and furious pushback from Democrats.

Mr. Graham said at a press conference attended by a who’s-who of national pro-life leaders that he hoped to rally the country behind an alternative to the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Democratic bill that would codify abortion access, passed by the House in July.

“After they introduced the bill to define who they are, I thought it would be nice to introduce a bill to define who we are,” Mr. Graham said. “The Democrats wanted a national standard, and their standard was basically abortion up to the time of birth, putting you in the Iran-and-Syria club.”

His bill has virtually zero chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, but supporters said the 15-week position offers Republicans a benchmark backed by most voters as Democrats wield the fall of Roe v. Wade to energize their base in November.

A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released in July found that 72% of Americans surveyed want abortion banned no later than 15 weeks’ gestation, while just 10% favored allowing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

“To flip that 10% statistic we keep hearing about, 90% of Americans reject the view that abortion should be legal up until birth, which is what the Women’s Health Protection Act does,” said March for Life president Jeanne Mancini. “Politicians standing against this bill will stand not only against science but they will stand against the American public, not to mention standing against basic compassion for women and babies.”

More than 80 House Republicans headed by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith introduced the companion bill to the Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortion Act, including Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, but the GOP support wasn’t universal.

Absent from the legislation were members of the Senate leadership. Many Republicans have said they want decisions on abortion restrictions to be left to the state legislatures, not the federal government. Nearly two dozen states have passed limits tougher than the 15-week standard.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Graham bill doesn’t reflect the views of most Senate Republicans.

“In terms of scheduling, I think most of the members of my conference prefer this be dealt with on the state level,” Mr. McConnell said.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told Politico: “This wasn’t a conference decision. It was an individual senator’s decision.”

Meanwhile, Democrats took advantage of the opportunity to focus on what they see as one of their stronger issues in the midterms. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, accused Mr. Graham of pushing a “national abortion ban.”

“Republicans in Congress are trying to impose a national abortion ban,” she tweeted. “McConnell stacked the Supreme Court with extremists to end Roe v. Wade. This is their latest assault on the health, freedom, & rights of every woman in America. We need to make Roe the law again.”

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the bill was “wildly out of step with what Americans believe.”

Mr. Graham argued that his proposal would help Republicans counter the Democratic message.

“What I’m trying to tell my colleagues is that there’s a consensus view by the most prominent pro-life groups in America, that this is where America should be at the federal level,” Mr. Graham said. “I don’t think this is going to hurt us. I think it’s more likely to hurt them 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 Republican bill includes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, but not “psychological or emotional conditions.” Doctors would be required to try to save the life of an infant born alive after the procedure.

The Democratic bill, which Senate Republicans have blocked twice, would ban restrictions on abortion and allow procedures after fetal viability when “continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health,” which has been interpreted to include mental health.

Mr. Smith said the Democratic legislation “would also nullify every modest pro-life restriction ever enacted by the states — including Women’s Right to Know laws in 35 states, parental involvement statutes in 37 states, the pain-capable unborn child protection laws in 19 states, waiting periods in 26 states, and so much more.”

Pro-life advocates supporting the Graham bill include leaders of the March for Life, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Concerned Women for America, CatholicVote, and the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.

Mr. Graham rejected the idea that abortion opponents are losing the debate.

“There’s a narrative forming in America that the Republican Party and the pro-life movement is on the run,” he said. “No, no, no, no, no. We’re going nowhere. We welcome the debate. We welcome the vote in the United States Senate as to what America should look like in 2022.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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