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Republicans propose nationwide abortion ban

It was ever thus.

Republicans are struggling with the backlash against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and a series of Republican-controlled states instituting harsh abortion bans. Voters are angry, and that anger has contributed to a reduction in Republican hopes for November’s midterm elections. So what are they doing about it? Well, Sen. Lindsey Graham is going to introduce a national 15-week abortion ban.

That’s one way to do things. Voters are angry that your party is banning abortion in the states? Go ahead and ban it nationally! Many in your party defended the Supreme Court’s move as backing states’ rights on this issue? Take it federal!

Graham’s move is a political calculation. He’s calling his 15-week abortion ban—which falls far short of Roe’s standard of viability, usually around 23 or 24 weeks—the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.” He thinks he can convince swing voters to hear “late-term abortions” and “pain-capable” and think, “This is a reasonable limit I can support in the name of compromise.”

But that’s presuming that voters will hear those words and not just “national abortion ban.” Or that they won’t see through the fact that what Graham proposes is a sharp cut from what had been the national standard for nearly five decades.

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It’s not hard to see what Graham thinks he is doing with this messaging bill that has no chance of passing in a Congress controlled by Democrats or being signed by a Democratic president. He’s trying to use the deceptive name of the bill to convince voters that Republicans just have reasonable goals when it comes to a national abortion ban. The thing is, Republicans haven’t given voters a lot of reason to trust them on this issue, given the harsh abortion bans in so many Republican-controlled states, and the horror stories coming out of those states of women denied care for miscarriages or pregnancies that threaten their health, or child rape victims forced to travel out of state for medical care. And Graham’s ban wouldn’t reinstitute abortion rights up to 15 weeks in the states with near-total bans—it would only limit abortion rights where they currently exist.

It is also, of course, a huge betrayal of everything Republicans have said about states’ rights. Here’s Graham himself, just last month: “I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion.” It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a surprise that Graham is a giant liar on this front, but it’s another reminder that the implication that Republicans just want to pass this oh-so-reasonable “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” isn’t just a lie when it comes to the name of the bill, it’s a lie about their larger ambitions. They’re just getting started with this, and yes, Republicans want a national abortion ban.

The first thing you need to understand is this:

Yes. Marshall expands on that here:

Republicans want to portray this as a reasonable national compromise, setting a national standard as I’ve seen even some journalists put it. But that’s not what it is. It doesn’t set a national 15 or 20 week standard. All the total restrictions which are now common in red and some purple states stay in place. It simply takes the Mississippi law which brought us the Dobbs decision and imposes it on every blue state. So what Mississippi passed and which was treated as extreme a year ago will become the law in California, New York, Illinois, Washington state and everywhere else. In practice it’s a blue state abortion ban. Abortion’s already banned in the great majority of red states or soon will be.

Republicans leave the decision to the states. Unless a state protects abortion rights. In which case Republicans ban it for them.

It is critical at every stage — though I suspect most won’t need it pointed out — that this is a national ban. Even if it’s 15 weeks versus from the moment of conception, it is a national ban. So if you’re relying on your blue state politics making this someone else’s problem you’re out of luck. It’s coming for you. And it certainly won’t stop with a 15 week ban.

If this were both a limit and a guarantee – that is, abortion is legal up to 15 weeks but no more, except in broadly-defined cases where the pregnant person’s life or health is in danger, then maybe this could have some traction. It would still be a big setback for abortion rights in mostly blue states, but it would make abortion at least theoretically available again in roughly half the country, including Texas. This is close to the preferred outcome of John Roberts, who simply wanted to uphold the Mississippi 15-week ban and make Roe smaller, not throw it on the trash heap and then light it on fire. Such bans have failed nationally and in some states when put to the voters, and post-Dobbs it’s harder to see anyone who isn’t a committed forced-birther feeling like “compromise” is the right answer, but it would at least make the Republicans look like they were willing to give some ground. This is nothing like that.

Republicans in the Senate mostly greeted this bill by reacting as they would to a dead cat on their front porch. And if they’re really lucky…

I approve of this message. Slate has more.

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    It’s almost like Miss Lindsey WANTS to be the party out of power. Obviously it will go nowhere, but it’s fodder to take away from the actual issue R’s should be winning on, ”it’s the economy, stupid.” Virtually everyone in the country is worse off financially than they were a short two years ago. Instead of focusing on the misery index, how real Americans are watching their savings disintegrate due to runaway inflation, how even the well off, who can take that hit still suffer from shortages, including businesses that can’t get parts and supplies to keep running, Lindsey wants to tilt at a windmill. Dems should send him a fruit basket, as grateful thanks.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I remember back in the early 1970s when Dr. Menninger came out with a book that was titled, “Whatever Became of Sin?”

  3. Flypusher says:

    Here’s a question that I have yet to see the pro-life side answer honestly. “Late term abortion” is their main bogeyman here, but I want to know of any example, while Roe was in effect, of a woman who was past the viability point, in a completely healthy pregnancy, who demanded an abortion and got one legally, without any input and approval from any doctors. I have read many accounts of people who had late term abortions, and with ZERO EXCEPTIONS, these were heartbreaking tales of people who wanted a child, but were forced into an awful choice by fetal abnormalities incompatible with life, a high risk of maternal death, or both. Also in all those cases they had to get medical approval, sometimes from multiple doctors. It’s very obvious to me that when the GOP rants about “partial birth abortion” they want you to think it’s happening all the time to healthy viable fetuses. If there’s an actual case of a legal 3rd trimester “abortion of convenience”, let’s hear it.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Fly,

    While I am pro abortion, in the Margret Sanger tradition, I can answer your question, because obviously I hang out with mainly pro life folks. The simplest way to explain it is by example. Do many criminals shoot their victims with suppressor equipped guns? When is the last time you read or heard about a criminal using a suppressor during a crime? Never? Rarely, if ever?

    You still vociferously want suppressors kept highly regulated and probably want them outlawed, right? Why? Why are you so invested in me not being able to run down to Academy and buy one off the shelf? Same reason conservatives don’t want late term abortions. Doesn’t really matter if they are extremely rare in crimes or not. The idea of late term abortions enrage the pro life folks, just as you would be pissed if I could walk in, drop some cash and go home with a suppressor for a gun no questions asked.

    Meat for the respective bases.

  5. Flypusher says:

    That’s a whole lot of words to say “I have no example”. That the GOP is throwing red meat to the base is obvious, so obvious that it really doesn’t need to be mentioned. But the base isn’t large enough to pass a federal bans on abortion. They have to persuade all of us in that mushy middle, and to do that they need real examples, not hypotheticals, to counter all the very real and very sad examples of pregnancies tragically gone wrong. There was a woman here in Houston who had a very recent close call when her water broke early (but after the time limit proposed in this bill). The pregnancy was absolutely doomed, but she had to wait days to get that life saving abortion, because the very badly written TX law does not set clear guidelines for doctors. Those stories are what will resonate with the majority of people and the fact that the TX GOP is in no hurry to fix this bug (although I would say it’s a feature instead) is something that they ought to be hounded constantly about.