At a time when some Republican candidates in swing states are softening their anti-abortion rhetoric and fear that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will help their Democratic opponents, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has proposed a federal anti-abortion law. Graham’s bill, unveiled on Tuesday, September 13, proposes a national abortion ban not long after a pregnancy’s first trimester. This is, according to Graham’s critics, a total flip flop from what Graham was saying earlier this year, when the Republican senator applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a victory for states’ rights.
The federal government, Graham previously said, needs to stay out of abortion and leave it up to the individual states. Now, he is pushing an anti-abortion law at the federal level. Graham’s bill isn’t as extreme as what many MAGA Republicans have been proposing at the state level, including banning abortion from the moment of conception even in cases of rape or incest and even if the woman’s life is in danger. But it is, Graham’s critics are saying, a flip flop from what he said earlier this year.
One of those critics is Washington Post opinion columnist, former Republican and Never Trumper Jennifer Rubin. In her September 14 column, Rubin argues that Graham’s bill could be a “gift to Democrats” in the 2022 midterms — saying that Democratic strategists and candidates can use the bill to their political advantage.
“At a moment when Republican candidates are furiously scrubbing evidence of their extreme anti-abortion views from their websites, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) has underscored the determination of Republicans to enact a regime of forced birth throughout the United States,” Rubin explains. “Graham introduced a bill on Tuesday — just eight weeks before Election Day — that would impose a nationwide abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, barely into the second trimester. While he provides an exception in cases where the pregnancy would kill the woman, he provides no other exceptions to protect the health of women. Given the overwhelming popularity of the pro-choice position — even in red states such as Kansas — the proposal is a gift to Democrats.”
Rubin, like other Graham critics, finds his timing bizarre. And she points out that while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was obviously uncomfortable with Graham’s bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was quick to slam it as “a radical bill to institute a nationwide restriction on abortions.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Graham’s bill as “the latest, clearest signal of extreme MAGA Republicans’ intent to criminalize women’s health freedom in all 50 states and arrest doctors for providing basic care.”
But whatever Graham’s motivations, Rubin argues, his bill could benefit Democrats politically in the 2022 midterms.
“Perhaps Graham is more concerned with ingratiating himself with the far right than with helping his party regain the majority,” Rubin writes. “Whatever the reason, he has certainly lent a hand to Democrats who’ve been focusing on slippery Republicans trying to deny ownership of their past radical views…. Graham has provided a real service to the electorate. No voter need be confused about the two parties’ position on women’s autonomy, health care and constitutional rights. When Republicans tout a national abortion ban — or denounce the FBI or downplay January 6 or oppose a slew of popular bills — they are telling us precisely what they stand for. Voters should listen.”