Graham proposes 15-week abortion bill ahead of election that divides Republicans

Democratic Senate candidates immediately tried to link their Republican opponents to Graham’s bill, but the South Carolina Republican defended his legislation as a protection against late-term abortions.

“I think the Democrats made a big mistake in Washington by introducing legislation that would basically allow abortion up until the moment of birth,” Graham told CNN. “Now we have an alternative.”

The court’s decision in June sparked a nationwide battle to determine legal rights to abortion, after finding a constitutional right to do so nearly 50 years ago.

In May, the Senate failed to advance a Democratic bill establishing a federal right to terminate a pregnancy until fetal viability or later if there is “a risk to the life or health of the pregnant patient.” (Fetal viability occurs between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy.) Graham’s bill, which has no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate, provides exemptions for abortions necessary to protect the life of the mother, and if the woman becomes pregnant. rape or incest.

Senate Republicans were slow to endorse Graham’s plan on Tuesday.

“I’ll look into it,” said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is in a tight reelection race, would not directly answer when asked if he supports Graham’s bill. Johnson said abortion laws should be decided by “we the people” in the 50 states. The Supreme Court decision revived Wisconsin’s abortion ban, which had been passed in 1849.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the GOP Whip, has defended the new legislation, saying it will give GOP candidates “landing ground” as Democrats hammer away at the issue. He said most Republicans support restrictions on abortion, not an outright ban. Thun told CNN he supported the 15-week ban.

“I would expect that there would be pretty good support for it among, you know, pro-life Republicans and maybe pro-life Democrats,” Thune said.

“I also think it’s because the Democrats have tried to turn this into a one-sided argument that represents their particular worldview, which is that all Republicans are in favor of the ban,” Thune added. “I think that changes that narrative and gives the candidates a place for something that reflects their views and doesn’t align with the Democrats’ narrative.”

But GOP leadership member Sen. John Cornyn of Texas had a different take on Graham’s bill.

“I think there will be some differences of opinion,” Cornyn said. “My priority is for each state to handle these issues.”

Asked why Graham introduced the legislation, Cornyn replied, “Ask Senator Graham.”

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said he wanted to “focus” on inflation — the Consumer Price Index rose 8.3 percent from August 2021 to last month, even as gas prices fell — and a possible strike by railroad workers.

“That’s what we should focus on,” Tillis added.

And Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the third member of the GOP leadership, said he supported Graham’s previous anti-abortion proposals, but would not directly answer when asked if it would be politically beneficial for the GOP to introduce a bill before the midterm elections.

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The division of the Senate Republican conference in Washington extended to the campaign trail. Herschel Walker, a GOP Senate candidate from Georgia, said he supports the 15-week abortion ban, writing in a statement, “The issue should be decided at the state level, but I would support this policy.” Asked to clarify whether Walker would vote for a federal bill like Graham’s, despite saying the issue is up to the states, a spokesman for Walker said: “I think it’s clear, that’s why it says ‘support.'”

But Joe O’Dea, a Republican candidate for the Colorado Senate, said he opposed the legislation, calling on Congress to “pass a bill that protects a woman’s right to choose early in pregnancy” by imposing “reasonable limits on what is not medically necessary.” late-term abortion.”

Democratic Senate candidates immediately took up Graham’s bill. Pennsylvania Governor John Fetterman, who is running against Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, asked his opponent if he supports the legislation. She and other candidates, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, have advocated for abortion rights.

“The Republican national abortion ban will be on the ballot in every Senate race,” said Michigan Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “The GOP has demonstrated, once again, the threat to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and voters will make their voices heard in November along with Senate Democrats.”

It’s unclear whether Republicans would put Graham’s bill in the Senate if they win back the chamber this fall.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Thune told CNN. “My hope, as I’ve said before, is that anything we put on the floor is in 60 votes, and there aren’t 60 votes, probably for anything on either side at the moment.”

House Republicans also plan to introduce a bill to ban abortion at 15 weeks. House GOP leaders have not committed to putting the measure on the floor if they regain a majority, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN he supports banning abortions at 15 weeks.

McCarthy’s “Pledge to America” ​​— the policy and messaging document he will formally unveil next week — makes only a passing reference to abortion, according to a source familiar with the document.

The document says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and mothers,” the source said.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Ali Zaslav, Melanie Zanona and Michael Warren contributed to this report.