President Biden is taking Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and other Republicans to task over a proposed nationwide abortion ban, a topic set to be a galvanizing issue in the midterm elections.
Graham introduced a bill this month that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy across the United States. However, contrary to Biden’s comment, he said exceptions could be made “in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.”
Generally, the Catholic Church believes that human life begins at conception and that abortion is prohibited, although surgery to save the life of the mother is permitted even if it inadvertently causes the death of the fetus. For his part, Pope Francis has called abortion “murder” while also admonishing U.S. bishops against getting involved in politics by opposing political leaders’ positions on abortion rights.
“Abortion is not banned in America. It is left up to elected officials in America to define the issue,” Graham said in announcing the proposal last week, surrounded by several female antiabortion leaders. “States have the ability to do [so] at the state level, and we have the ability in Washington to speak on this issue if we choose. I have chosen to speak.”
Graham previously took a different view, telling reporters last month that “states should decide the issue of abortion.” Now he favors national legislation, saying that abortion “is not a states’ rights issue.”
Appearing on Fox News on Thursday, he reaffirmed his commitment to a nationwide ban: “We’re a national party. Here’s my position on the border. Here’s my position on crime. Here’s my position on inflation. … We owe it to the American people to tell them who we are, and here’s who we are as a national party.”
“They’re trying to marginalize me. Now I’m a pro-life guy, always have been,” he continued. “I guess here’s what I’m saying to the pro-life movement: Stand up for the baby in a reasonable way — they need you now.”
Other Republicans have promoted state antiabortion laws with no exceptions. The nonprofit Poynter Institute reported in July that 15 of 22 states with new or forthcoming laws limiting abortion do not permit exceptions for rape or incest.
Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history after John F. Kennedy, has had a shifting public opinion on abortion rights. Now, as a clear supporter, he is at odds with some American bishops who have refused to offer him Communion or questioned his Catholic faith.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) responds to Republicans criticizing him for proposing a nationwide 15-week abortion ban right before an election:— The Recount (@therecount) September 22, 2022
“We owe it to the American people to tell them who we are, and here’s who we are as a national party.” pic.twitter.com/wqyl4PsYZO
In any case, Graham’s measure stands little chance of advancing while Democrats hold the majority in Congress.
Biden said Graham and others want to “make sure that Roe is forever gone and Dobbs becomes the national law.” He referred to the Supreme Court’s ruling in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that granted women a constitutional right to abortion.
“Well, the good news is — for me, anyway — I’m going to be around at least for another two years. … I’m going to veto it. It’s not going to happen,” Biden said to applause, referring to a nationwide abortion ban.
Abortion is now banned or mostly prohibited in 15 states, while laws in several others are in various stages of legal limbo. Last month, Indiana passed a near-total abortion ban, becoming the first state to do so after Roe was struck down in June.
But Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed state lawmakers to regulate abortion — the first time voters in a state referendum had decided on such a provision after the fall of Roe. In South Carolina this month, Republicans also fell short in their bid for a near-total abortion ban.
While Republicans generally have praised the ruling overturning Roe, many have avoided making the issue a focus ahead of the midterm elections, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said last week in seemingly dismissing Graham’s bill.
Democrats have roundly criticized the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it the “latest, clearest signal of extreme MAGA Republicans’ intent to criminalize women’s health freedom in all 50 states and arrest doctors for providing basic care.”
Several opinion polls show that a majority of Americans favor abortion rights. In a Washington Post-Schar School poll in July, 65 percent of respondents indicated that the end of Roe represented a “major loss of rights,” and almost a third said abortion will be one of the “single most important” issues when they vote in November.