Sen. Lindsey Graham is not letting up on his national abortion ban, even though many of his fellow Senate Republicans wish he’d be quiet about that until after the election. Graham’s plan may help fire up the Republican base, but he clearly thinks it’s going to win swing voters despite all the available evidence that it will do the opposite.
Graham is out with an op-ed at Fox News (of course) trying to sell his abortion ban as the loving and compassionate and extremely moderate thing to do. Written with Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the piece opens with a lie and ends with an acknowledgment that a national 15-week abortion ban is just the beginning.
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“Pain is part of the human experience, and so is compassion for those who suffer pain,” they write at the outset, selling a policy devoid of compassion for the pregnant people it would affect. “For too long, our nation’s laws have excluded unborn children from this compassion even when growing evidence shows they can feel pain at least by 15 weeks in their development.”
In reality, “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Why would that be? “Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at or after 24 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, a fetus or embryo does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least this gestational age.”
Following that lie, Graham and Dannenfelser tell a truth: Graham’s national abortion ban would establish a ceiling, but not a floor, on abortion rights. It would limit abortion rights in states that allow abortion past 15 weeks (as was the national policy until the Trump Supreme Court went to work), but states that wanted to entirely ban abortion could do so.
Next, Graham and Dannenfelser move on to a misleading comparison between the national abortion ban they’re pushing and European laws. “Most of our European allies already limit abortion by at least 15 weeks. Developed nations like Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway allow abortion up to 12 weeks while France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain allow abortion up to 14 weeks,” they write. Here’s the thing: That may be true on paper, but most European countries have broader exceptions than Graham is proposing after those gestational limits.
“We see earlier gestational limits in Europe,” Katherine Mayall of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, but “in practice, if somebody hits a gestational limit of 12 weeks, they’re still able to access abortion care, because the broad grounds after that limit option include things like mental health or the woman’s economic circumstances.” Economic circumstances!
Here’s maybe the best part, though. “For almost 50 years, the American people were denied a voice on abortion,” Graham and Dannenfelser lament, as they push a bill that would deny a voice to many states. And a bill that is, according to post-Dobbs polling, opposed by the public 57% to 30%, a 27-point margin.
It’s lie after lie in a piece intended to sell a policy that lowers the ceiling on medical freedom for pregnant people. And yes, it’s terrible politics for Republicans. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision put the U.S. on notice that Republicans do want to take away your rights, and Graham’s bill emphasizes that. That’s why so many Republicans who will gladly vote for it after the midterm elections are running scared right now. But he’s just being honest about his party’s goals—and toward the end of his piece with Dannenfelser, Graham acknowledges that this 15-week abortion ban is not the final step.
”There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that one day every child is protected under the law, and we believe, over time, life will win,” they write. “But this is a reasonable starting place for a debate worthy of the United States Senate and our nation.”
Got that? A national 15-week abortion ban is just the starting point. The only answer is to make sure they don’t get started.
Abortion rights, climate change, and gun safety are all on the ballot this fall, and there are literally thousands of ways to get involved in turning our voters. Plug into a federal, state, or local campaign from our GOTV feed at Mobilize and help Democrats and progressives win in November.
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It may seem like there is nothing we can do about these abortion bans but state Supreme Court races are on the ballot in many states this November. In this week’s episode of The Downballot, we talked about abortion bans and state Supreme Court races with Justice Richard Bernstein and how you can get involved.