Republican Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the bill Tuesday, which would ban most abortions nationwide starting at 15 weeks pregnant.
The South Carolina senator introduced the bill less than three months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion. The measure would significantly restrict access to abortion in many states — especially blue states, which tend to have more protections for abortion rights.
The legislation has little chance of passing Congress as it stands because Democrats hold narrow majorities in both the House and Senate.
It comes ahead of key midterm elections in November, when expectations of a Republican rout have been called into question as evidence mounts that the Roe reversal has galvanized Democratic voters. Abortion rights advocates warned that a GOP takeover of Congress would lead to erosion of women’s rights, and many were quick to hold Graham’s law as a prime example.
“Y’all ready for a nationwide abortion ban? Vote Republican and that’s what you get,” progressive activist David Hogg tweeted Tuesday morning.
While the title of Graham’s bill suggests it would only ban “late-term” abortions, it would restrict the procedure nationwide to less than four months of pregnancy, the cutoff that falls in the second trimester.
Abortions are usually considered “late term” at 21 weeks of pregnancy or later, according to the health-policy nonprofit. KFF. However, the organization notes that the phrase is not an official medical term and that abortions at this stage are rarely sought and difficult to obtain.
The 15-week mark precedes the point of fetal viability, which is generally considered to be around the 24th week of pregnancy. The Supreme Court ruled in Roe that women have the right to an abortion before viability, and that states can begin imposing restrictions after that point.
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June, the Supreme Court 5-4 overturned Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, another abortion-rights case. A decision by a court that has become much more conservative after the appointment of three former presidents Donald Trump‘s nominees, gave individual states the power to determine their own abortion policies.
Numerous Republican states moved immediately ban abortion altogetherwhile many Democratic leaders sought to enshrine protections for the procedure.
Graham, a close Trump ally, has previously expressed support for states setting their own abortion laws. “This is, in my opinion, the most constitutionally sound way to deal with this issue, and the way the United States dealt with this issue until 1973,” Graham tweeted in May.
But Graham also introduced legislation restricting abortion nationally—albeit his bill for 2021 would ban abortion after 20 weeks, rather than the 15-week limit in the current version.
“Abortion is a contentious issue. After Dobbs, America has to make a decision,” Graham said at a press conference Tuesday to unveil the new legislation.
“States have the ability to do this at the state level, and we have the ability in Washington to talk about this issue if we choose to,” he said. “I chose to speak.
At 15 weeks, Graham said, the fetus has developed enough to feel the pain of a miscarriage. After that, his law would allow no abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. “And that’s where America should be,” the senator said.
Graham was flanked by leaders of several anti-abortion groups, including Susan B. Anthony, president of Pro-Life America, Marjorie Dannenfelser.
“This is incredible progress, but much more action is needed,” Dannenfelser said in a statement.
The White House criticized Graham in a statement later Tuesday, calling the bill “wildly contrary to what the American people believe” and extolling the legislative goals of the Biden administration, while accusing Republicans of “taking away the rights of millions of women.”
Pro-abortion groups echoed this sentiment while tying the issue directly to the midterm elections.
“Anti-abortion-rights Republicans in Congress are showing us exactly what they plan to do if they win power: enforce a statewide ban on abortion,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.
“We’d like to thank Senator Graham for making it crystal clear to voters today that Republicans are running on a statewide abortion ban in these midterms,” said Dani Negrete, national policy director of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible.
Surveys show attitudes toward abortion shifted to a “pro-choice” position after the Dobbs ruling. Some Republican candidates who previously offered hardline positions on abortion during the GOP primaries did softened or subdued their views as they contest the general election.
Democratic candidates such as Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman have weighed in on the issue.
“Dr. Oz has made it *very* clear that he wants to take away women’s reproductive freedom,” Fetterman tweeted Tuesday about his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. “With the Republican administration implementing a national abortion ban, it is now more important than ever that we stop it in November.”