On Tuesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.
This leads to an obvious question: Why?
After all, Republicans have desperately pushed back on abortion after the Supreme Court ruled this summer in Roe v. Since overturning Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion.
GOP candidates have been busy cleaning up their websites with tougher language on abortion, which in many cases has helped them win primaries as they see a political blow to the general electorate.
Recent polls suggest that while public opinion is more divided on the 15-week ban than when the court overturned Roe, which is widely unpopular, most Americans still oppose Graham’s proposed limit.
And Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell seemed, um, less than thrilled with Graham’s bet. McConnell he told CNN’s Manu Raju that he believed that the majority of Republican senators would prefer to leave the issue of abortion to the states.
The almost immediate resistance that Graham’s plan drew – and the joy with which Democrats stood by it – suggests it may be short-lived.
But it’s worth asking: What was he trying to do?
Here’s my theory: Graham sees that his own party is going head-to-head on the issue. And some conservative states have almost total abortion bans. That puts Republicans running for Senate across the country constantly on the defensive, trying to defend a position that isn’t very popular with the public.
And so Graham is trying to give the Republican candidates something to talk about, which he believes connects the needle between keeping the GOP base, which opposes abortion in every way, happy and without completely alienating the center of the electorate.
Graham hopes to give Republicans a positive talking point on the abortion issue — one that his side can point to as proof that Democrats are not the intolerant ogres who have, so far, been effectively ousted by the Supreme Court’s decision.
An alternative analysis of Graham’s move is that he believes abortion should be banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy and that his side should be on the record. Time. But as much as Graham may believe this, he is very adept at rolling out this plan less than two months before the election, regardless of the political consequences of doing so.
(Sidebar: The fact that even House Republicans are pushing for a 15-week ban — and that they announced it the same day Graham did — suggests a level of coordination that suggests politics is behind it all.)
Will it work? It’s far from clear, especially since Democrats control the Senate, making Graham’s bid dependent on what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks is the right political move for him.
point: Graham’s ploy is a major sticking point in the battle for the Senate majority. Who it helps and who it hurts remains to be seen.