Reviews | Lindsey Graham’s abortion bill is hypocritical and dangerous

Just a few months ago, Senator Lindsey O. Graham wanted states to write their own abortion rules. Today, he has changed his mind: States should still write their own abortion rules, but only if these rules are severely restrictive.

The South Carolina Republican introduced a bill on Tuesday that would impose a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks — with the narrowest exceptions to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and for necessary procedures to save the mother’s life. The hypocrisy is evident from a lawmaker who insisted in May that the Supreme Court, when it ruled Roe vs. Wade in 1973, committed a “takeoverby depriving local officials of the ability to decide when and if abortion should be legal. Yet there was Mr Graham on Tuesday, announcing his desire for Congress to seize the power to set abortion policy for these very local officials.

Unsurprisingly, his press conference was full of lies and nonsense. Flanked by women – ‘It makes me look better already,’ he joked – Mr Graham asked for his bill would place the United States “in line with science and the civilized world”. Yet the science behind its arbitrary 15-week threshold is doubtful; there is no consensus on when a fetus begins to to experience pain, the point at which Mr. Graham says abortion should be limited. And his claim that “47 out of 50 European countries” have equally strict abortion rules is false. Those societies that Mr. Graham apparently considers “civilized” may have strict gestation limits on paper. But in practice, most of their legal regimes governing termination of pregnancy are forgiving. Generally, exceptions for things like economic hardship and fetal abnormalities mean that women can have an abortion after the deadlines have expired, provided they overcome certain bureaucratic hurdles.

Moreover, while a hard and fast 15-week rule would bring the United States in line with its fellow democracies, Mr. Graham’s bill would not impose a consistent policy nationwide. His legislation would allow conservative states to continue to set standards as draconian as they wish – something they have already begun to do. Laws such as Mississippi’s, under which abortion is almost entirely prohibited, would be permitted. These types of restrictions do not align the United States with most of Europe; they align it with parts of the developing world, many of which are not democracies at all, where maternal mortality rate are booming, as are researchers predict they might here.

Republicans have asserted since the June Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the ruling only leaves room for another kind of choice to flourish, where voters can choose through their representatives which abortion rules they want to live under. Mr. Graham’s proposal presents an alarming alternative vision, in which there is little individual or community choice. In a lukewarm response to the bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that other Senate Republicans are more reluctant to abandon their previous position.

For now, it is. The politics of post-abortiondeer are just taking shape. Anti-abortion crusaders will lobby GOP lawmakers for nationwide restrictions for years to come. The true test of Republicans’ oft-stated commitment to federalism has only just begun.

About Charles D. Goolsby

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