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GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham introduces 15-week abortion ban in the Senate

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill to restrict abortion access nationwide.
Stefani Reynolds
AFP via Getty Images
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill to restrict abortion access nationwide.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has introduced a bill to create a federal ban on abortions at 15 weeks in an attempt to force Republicans to adopt a partywide consensus on the issue.

The move comes as Democrats have turned abortion into a rallying cry following the Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade. Polls haveconsistently shown that a majority of voters oppose the end of federal abortion protections.

Graham acknowledged at a press conference on Tuesday that the legislation has very little chance of becoming law in the near future, and that's not just because Democrats control Congress and the White House. The proposed legislation includes exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother but it has not received the backing of any GOP leaders.

The effort is at odds with the views of many federally elected Republicans who have said the issue of abortion should be left to the states. Graham himself said the issue should be left to the states before reversing his position with this legislation.

Graham told reporters that he has not spoken to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about the bill. McConnell himself has largely avoided committing to any discussion of a federal abortion ban. In the days following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe, a conservative victory decades in the making, McConnell explicitly downplayed the chances of such a ban ever being enacted.

"It takes 60 votes in the Senate for either side to prevail on this issue," McConnell said at an event in his home state of Kentucky. "So I think the democratic process on this issue is going to work out at the state level."

Democrats wasted no time trying to tie all Republicans to Graham's plan

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement reaffirming Democrats' pledge to restore federal protections for abortion rights.

"Republicans in Congress are focused on taking rights away from millions of women," Jean-Pierre said. "The President and Vice President are fighting for progress, while Republicans are fighting to take us back."

Democrats have warned for months that Republicans would move ahead with a federal abortion ban if they win back control in Washington--a message that has helped drive an increase in voter registration among women in several states.

The dynamic is particularly difficult for Republican candidates in places that aren't GOP strongholds, like Joe O'Dea who is running for Senate in Colorado. In a recent interview with NPR, O'Dea said he does not plan to support a federal abortion ban.

"I believe, the first five months, the mother has the choice," O'Dea said. "After that, there should be some exceptions rape, incest, life of the mother. Those should be exceptions. And I'll vote that way and I've been consistent about it."

But Graham said he thinks a federal abortion ban should be part of the campaign process and he wants his bill to represent the consensus view of the majority of groups opposing abortion rights.

"We are trying to basically normalize America here," Graham said. "If we stay on this and keep talking about it maybe in a decade this will be law."

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Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.