“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”
Reproductive freedom will be on the ballot in November. Republicans made that clear on Tuesday when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and more than 80 House Republicans introduced a bill to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks.
The bill would leave in place existing state bans that are more restrictive but would override current bans after 15 weeks and outlaw abortion in states where it’s currently permitted under state law.
In Virginia, abortion access remains safe and legal, but that’s not the case in some of the states that neighbor Virginia, including Tennessee, where a ban was enacted in August, and West Virginia, where a near-total abortion ban was passed just this week.
“I think we should have a law at the federal level that would say, after 15 weeks, no abortion on demand except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother,” Graham said at a news conference, leaving out the fact that his bill still forces rape victims to jump through hoops to seek abortion care.
House Republicans also introduced a version of the bill on Tuesday, with 85 GOP lawmakers—including one Virginia lawmaker: Rep. Ben Cline (R-06)—signing onto the nationwide abortion ban.
The legislation all but confirms what reproductive freedom advocates and Democrats have been arguing even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade: that the Republican claim that they want to leave abortion up to the states is a lie and that a national ban is next on their agenda.
While Graham’s bill stands no chance of passing with Democrats in control of the Senate, it makes the stakes of November’s elections crystal clear.
“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Graham said on Tuesday. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”
In Virginia’s Second District, where incumbent Elaine Luria will be facing off against Republican Jen Kiggans, abortion has become a hot topic. Kiggans has been known to dodge questions from constituents about her views on abortion, but her campaign has made it clear that she is in support for the national abortion bill, as it would be “protecting babies from 15 weeks on.”
In Virginia’s Seventh District, incumbent Abigail Spanberger’s opponent, Yesli Vega, has already made some incredibly controversial comments on abortion.
On Sept. 13, Gov. Glenn Youngkin was one of the featured speakers at a gala held in Washington, DC by the anti-abortion extremist group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
During the next legislative session in January 2023, it’s entirely possible that the Youngkin Administration will try to pass some sort of abortion ban in the commonwealth, dismantling the progress that’s been made over the years. This would also be in defiance of Virginians’ wishes, as 77% of Virginians support an individual’s right to choose without government interference.
The Biden administration also blasted the proposed ban and reiterated the president’s support for efforts to restore reproductive freedom nationwide.
“This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “President Biden and Congressional Democrats are committed to restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade in the face of continued radical steps by elected Republicans to put personal health care decisions in the hands of politicians instead of women and their doctors, threatening women’s health and lives.”
A national ban is even more unpopular, according to research from Data for Progress, a polling firm whose analysis found there’s not a single state where more than 30% of voters support a national ban.
Republicans have tried to claim the 15-week ban proposal is a commonsense measure to ban “late-term abortions,” a misleading phrase used by anti-abortion activists. Previously, the term has been used to refer to abortions after 21 weeks—which make up fewer than 1% of all abortions and almost exclusively happen in cases of maternal health problems and fetal anomalies.
Now, Graham and House Repubkicans are making the factually incorrect case that any abortion after 15 weeks is “late-term.”
In reality, their bill would ban abortion right around the time in pregnancy that abnormalities and complications are first able to be detected, forcing women to either obtain illegal abortions or leave the country to terminate their pregnancies.
Reproductive freedom advocates were quick to call out the misleading rhetoric and the danger of Graham’s proposal.
“15 weeks is not ‘late term,’ particularly given the significant challenges to access around the country,” Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications at Emily’s List, wrote in a tweet. “Let’s be clear: this is their first step to a full ban.”
Statements from anti-abortion activists suggest Reynolds’ prediction is accurate.
“I think the place to begin is where Graham is beginning,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told The Washington Post before the bill’s introduction, suggesting that Graham’s 15-week ban was not the end goal for anti-abortion conservatives.
And while Graham’s proposal makes exceptions for rape, incest, and when “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman,” the bill erects numerous hurdles for rape victims to bypass as they seek abortion care.
An adult rape victim would be forced to seek counseling or medical treatment from a government-licensed facility and then wait 48 hours before obtaining an abortion. The victim would also be forced to provide documentation showing they complied with the requirement to their abortion provider prior to receiving services.
The barriers for child victims of rape are even more onerous, as physicians would be required to report the rape to a child welfare or law enforcement agency prior to offering care.
Providers would also be obligated to perform abortions using a method “provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”
This clause seems to suggest that there would be certain cases in which doctors would be forced to induce labor rather than terminate a pregnancy—which means some victims of rape and incest could be forced to give birth, even with Graham’s so-called exceptions.