Lindsey Graham Introduces National Abortion Ban—Here’s What It Would Do

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Topline

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would criminalize abortion after 15 weeks into a pregnancy, the first national ban on the procedure to be introduced after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade—though the legislation faces long odds of actually passing, even if Republicans regain control of Congress.

Key Facts

Graham’s bill, jawbreakingly titled the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act,” would ban performing or attempting to perform abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape and incest against a minor.

It would also allow abortions when “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury.”

Physicians performing abortions would be required to do so in a manner that “provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive,” the bill text states.

Performing an abortion in violation of the law would be a criminal offense subject to fines or a prison sentence of up to five years.

People who obtain abortions that violate the ban would not be prosecuted, but the bill does allow them to bring civil lawsuits against the person who performed the abortion, as can parents of minors who obtained abortions after 15 weeks.

It would also impose requirements for physicians to report any abortions that are performed after 15 weeks to the National Center for Health Statistics, but specifies that the report should not include identifying information about the person who got the abortion.

Big Number

2%. That’s the percentage of abortions in the U.S. that took place after 15 weeks in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of abortions take place before 15 weeks of pregnancy, but abortion rights advocates have argued the importance of keeping the procedure legal after that point for reasons like delayed access to care or health complications that emerge later in pregnancy.

Crucial Quote

“I am confident that if this bill came to the floor, it would get a lot of support among Republicans and hopefully a handful of Democrats,” Graham said at a press conference Tuesday. “If we stay on this and keep talking about it, maybe less than a decade from now, this will be law.”

Chief Critic

Graham’s bill has been widely opposed by Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights advocates, as well as the Biden Administration. “This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Tuesday, arguing that “Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women.”

What To Watch For

Under existing rules Graham’s legislation would require 60 votes to pass the Senate, which is unlikely to happen even if Republicans gain control of the chamber in the November midterms. Whether there will be appetite among Graham’s GOP colleagues to take up the bill anyway, despite its long odds, remains to be seen: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he doesn’t believe Congress would pass a federal abortion ban even if Republicans regain control—but hasn’t commented on whether he could bring such a bill up for a vote—and CNN reports Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Tex.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) said Tuesday they believe abortion should be left up to the states.

Key Background

Graham has previously introduced a 20-week abortion ban in the Senate, but shortened the timeline to 15 weeks in response to lobbying from anti-abortion advocates, he said Tuesday. Whether Congress could pass a federal abortion ban has been a source of concern since the Post reported in May that GOP lawmakers were considering introducing legislation that would ban the procedure as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Once the court actually did so, sparking a backlash among voters who overwhelmingly support abortion being legal, those plans have simmered down, with the Post reporting that it’s now unclear when or if the six-week bill will be introduced. Opponents of abortion rights have looked to 15-week bans as a less politically divisive way to restrict the procedure, with Florida and Arizona recently enacting 15-week laws and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) saying he supported his state doing the same. Recent polling from the Wall Street Journal and Public Religion Research Institute shows Americans are more likely to accept a 15-week ban than more stringent restrictions on the procedure, but a narrow majority are still opposed to the measures.

Further Reading

Graham to introduce bill that would restrict abortions nationwide (Washington Post)

Sen. Lindsey Graham Will Push For Nationwide Abortion Restrictions In New Bill—Here’s What To Know (Forbes)

Republicans Will Try To Ban Abortion Nationwide If Supreme Court Overturns Roe V. Wade, Report Reveals (Forbes)

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