Tuesday, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced legislation that would federalize abortion law by banning the procedure after 15 weeks.
Mr. Graham’s proposal appeared to be an effort to find a politically palatable position for Republicans after the court’s decision that could insulate them from a voter backlash, even as G.O.P.-led states enact bans on nearly all abortions.
But it also accomplished something that many Republicans have sought to avoid, highlighting for voters that their choice in November is between supporting a Democratic majority that wants to preserve abortion access and handing control of Congress to Republicans who are seeking to ban the procedure.
“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Mr. Graham said. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has galvanized Democrats on one of the most charged issues in American politics and underscored for Republicans the political risks of their longstanding opposition to abortion rights.
Mr. Graham’s bill, which would prohibit doctors from performing the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, appeared to be an effort to appease the most conservative Republicans, who want to sharply restrict access to abortions or ban them outright, while also trying to appeal to those in the party who want to impose more modest limits.
The measure would leave in place state laws with stricter restrictions but supersede those that allow the procedure after 15 weeks, outlawing many abortions that are currently legal.
I’m a fairly hardcore pro-lifer (see John Brown’s Raid) and would like nothing more than to stamp out the horrific practice of abortion. That said, politics is the art of the possible. Right now, most of the nation is in favor of abortion (Gallup, Pew). Graham may think that his bill, comparable to most abortion laws in Europe, appeals to the “some circumstances” crowd, but that is not how it will be sold. Last week National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru advocated a similar scheme (New Strategic Thinking: Pro-Life Is Just Too Difficult to Defend, so We Need a Federal Abortion Law. Or Something.). He was pimping a 20-week national ban.
What makes the matter worse is that I can’t believe that Lindsey Graham really cares about the pro-life issue. I think this bill is a gift; it is a way to re-energize the fundraising emails that went dormant with the Dobbs decision. Graham isn’t an idiot; he can count. There is no way the GOP will win enough Senate seats to pass this bill once defections are considered. I don’t think there is evidence that hardly anyone is interested in having this fight.
McConnell on Graham's 15-week abortion ban bill: "I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this will be dealt with at the state level."
— Julie Tsirkin (@JulieNBCNews) September 13, 2022
In my view, it is nutty politics to take a policy that will not have a lot of traction in November (see New Poll Hints That Defending Abortion Is Not the Killer Issue the Democrats Thought Would Save Them From Voters in November) and change it into a national issue. A federal law restricting abortion will bring with it tons of lobbying money, most of which will be directed at repealing the limit. What is even nuttier is anything that will federalize abortion again. A Congress that can make a national law limiting abortion can also make a federal law legalizing it.
In terms of raw politics, in an election cycle where we have nearly everything going our way (inflation, social policy, education, immigration, defense), why do we want to give the left what might be a compelling unifying issue?
This bill is bad politics because it makes abortion a national issue…again. It is terrible policy because it federalizes what should be a state issue.
We worked for 50 years to make abortion a state issue because that is where the decision should be made. Texas is not California (yet), and there is no reason why their abortion laws should be the same and a lot of very good reasons why they logically should not. We now have the freedom to campaign, state by state, to change abortion laws when and where we can. We should be thankful that is now the case. The last thing we should want is to remove the battle against Moloch from one federal institution to another.