White House slams ‘wildly out of step’ anti-abortion bill from Lindsey Graham

Republican senator’s proposal would outlaw abortions nationwide at 15 weeks of pregnancy

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 13 September 2022 21:49 BST
Lindsey Graham introduces bill to ban abortion at 15 weeks nationwide

The White House has condemned a proposal from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to outlaw abortions nationwide at 15 weeks of pregnancy, the first such bill proposed by a US senator in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to revoke a constitutional right to abortion care.

Senator Graham’s bill marks the sixth time that the Republican senator has introduced a national ban on abortion, with previous drafts proposing that abortion be outlawed at 20 weeks.

“This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The senator’s latest bill, which he introduced while surrounded by anti-abortion groups on 13 September, would make exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest, or to save the life of the patient.

At least 12 states have effectively outlawed abortion entirely following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization on 24 June, which struck down decades of precedents affirming the constitutional right to abortion care in Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey.

State-level anti-abortion laws that followed have forced the closure of more than 40 clinics and denied access to care for millions of women and girls. A law banning nearly all abortions in Indiana, the first state to pass new anti-abortion legislation in the wake of the Dobbs decision, goes into effect this week.

Polling has largely shown that a majority of American voters disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision; a recent memo shared among Republicans acknowledges that roughly 80 per cent of voters are “not pleased” with the ruling.

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress have argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling merely and correctly returned the issue of the right to abortion to individual states. But at the same time, they have advanced and endorsed nationwide abortion bans and “fetal personhood” proposals that would supersede any state-level laws to protect the right to abortion care.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Senator Graham called the ruling a “constitutional correction allowing for elected officials in the states to decide issues of life”.

In August, he told CNN that “states should decide the issue of abortion”.

A month later, announcing his latest bill, he said “we should have a law at the federal level”.

In congressional hearings in the weeks after the Supreme Court ruling, as abortion rights advocates and physicians laid bare the consequences of denying abortion access to millions of Americans, Republicans accused Democratic officials of fear-mongering while they advanced their own proposals for nationwide anti-abortion laws.

Less than three weeks after the Dobbs decision, House Republicans reintroduced the Heartbeat Protection Act, which would impose a federal abortion ban, outlawing abortions at roughly six weeks of pregnancy – before many people know they are pregnant, typically two weeks after a missed period.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also repeatedly warned that a Republican-controlled Congress would in short order pass a nationwide abortion ban, legislation that the president would veto.

Senator Graham said his legislation would receive a vote on the Senate floor if Republicans take control of Congress after midterm elections.

“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote,” he said on Tuesday. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote.”

Ms Jean-Pierre said in her statement that “President Biden and Congressional Democrats are committed to restoring the protections of Roe v Wade in the face of continued radical steps by elected Republicans to put personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians instead of women and their doctors, threatening women’s health and lives.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans are now “twisting themselves into pretzels” after arguing that abortion laws should be left up to the states, as the Supreme Court indicated.

“For the hard right this has never been about states’ rights,” he said in remarks from the Senate floor on Tuesday. “This has always been about making abortion illegal everywhere.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Senator Graham’s proposal invokes the “agonising reality of the radical bans enacted by radical right-wing state legislatures” in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress clearly want to inflict this same suffering on every woman in every state,” she said in a statement.

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