Sen. Lindsey Graham hit back against critics within his party who say the South Carolina Republican’s push for a federal abortion ban is jeopardizing the GOP’s chances in the midterm elections.
Mr. Graham introduced legislation for a 15-week abortion ban last week with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, sparking pushback from Republicans who accused the senator of shining a spotlight on an issue that hurts them at the ballot box and reinvigorating a divisive debate.
“I’m pro-life, even in an election year,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “To those who suggest that being pro-life is losing politics, I reject that.”
Polls show that abortion is a topic that hurts Republicans, as Democrats paint such abortion restrictions as extreme. But Mr. Graham threw red meat to the party’s base anyway, insisting last week that the Senate will consider his bill if the GOP retakes the upper chamber.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly batted down such a notion.
“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this will be dealt with at the state level,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Mr. Graham argued Sunday that his proposal is in line with other countries such as France, Germany and England. He also rejected the idea that his stance is a pivot from when he advocated — as recently as last month — that abortion be left up to the states, in the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade nationwide right to an abortion.
“I will not sit on the sidelines and watch this nation become China when it comes to aborting babies up to the moment of birth,” Mr. Graham said. “Here’s what [the Supreme Court] said: officials can make the decision, state or federal. I’m not inconsistent.”
But as Mr. Graham made his case, fellow Republicans remained opposed to his measure.
“A better approach probably will be to allow the states to work through this and to find the appropriate language on a state-by-state basis,” Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “After that, maybe Congress steps in again.”
Joe O’Dea, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Colorado, went a step further. Mr. O’Dea, who Republicans say may be able to unseat Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and help them retake the chamber, supports abortion through the first five months of pregnancy and said he’s willing to “buck” the GOP.
“I believe that the abortion issue, [Mr. McConnell] and I are different on that. He’s very pro-life. I’ll buck the party,” he said on NBC “Meet the Press.”
A poll released Sunday by NBC News showed that the Supreme Court’s rejection of Roe v. Wade is giving a boost to Democrats just weeks away from November’s midterms. Registered voters indicated they prefer Democrats by a margin of 22 percentage points over Republicans to handle abortion.
Still, Mr. Graham said he has no plans to let up on his push for a national ban.
“I never suggested there’s no place for the unborn in Washington, D.C. If you tell the pro-life movement that we’re out of business in the nation’s capital, that we can’t set some minimum national standard to prevent Chinese abortion policy in Maryland, or California, there will be revolt by the pro-life community,” he said. “I will continue to introduce legislation at the national level setting a minimum standard at 15 weeks for no abortion except for saving life of the mother, rape and incest.”
• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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