The bill comes three months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to an abortion, and marks the most serious effort by Republicans in Congress to pass a nationwide abortion restriction.
“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 and [to] save the life of a mother. And that should be where America’s at,” Graham said during a press conference.
The proposal also comes just two months before the midterm elections, where Republicans in battleground states are trying to navigate a growing voter backlash to the Supreme Court decision while also appealing to the party’s base that’s pushing for immediate action on imposing total abortion bans.
Graham nodded to the balancing act, indicating that a more extreme ban wouldn’t be popular with mainstream voters.
“We’re trying to take a position we think will rally the country to be more sympathetic to an unborn child,” Graham said.
But the bill would retain state laws that are more restrictive, while replacing laws in blue states that protect abortion.
The legislation includes exceptions for incest, rape and for saving the life of the mother if she is in danger from a physical condition. It also includes a potential five-year jail sentence for any provider who violates the ban.
Graham, who just last month said the Supreme Court made the correct decision by leaving abortion decisions up to states, on Tuesday said elected officials have the power to define and regulate abortion, including in Congress.
“Abortion is not banned in America. It’s left up to elected officials in America to define the issue. States have the ability to do it at state level. And we have the ability in Washington to speak on this issue if we choose,” Graham said. “I have chosen to speak.”
Graham said he was motivated to act following attempts by Democrats to enshrine abortion protections into federal law. He previously supported a 20-week abortion ban, but since the Supreme Court ruled that Mississippi’s 15-week ban was constitutional, he wanted to go further.
“After [Democrats] introduced a bill to define who they are, I thought it’d be nice to introduce a bill to define who we are,” Graham said.
The legislation has no chance of getting a vote while Democrats are in control of the Senate. Even if Republicans take control, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he doesn’t intend to eliminate the filibuster to pass a national abortion ban, meaning the legislation would need 60 votes.
“We should have a law at the federal level,” Graham said during a briefing. “If we take the House and Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote.”
But Graham said he personally hasn’t had a conversation with McConnell about the bill and instead is leaving it up to the representatives of anti-abortion groups who joined him for the press conference, including Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has galvanized Democrats, giving them hope of stopping a red wave by tying Republicans to extreme abortion policies.
“Proposals like the one today send a clear message from MAGA Republicans to women across the country: your body, our choice,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday in a floor speech.
Graham said Republicans should go on offense, and not be influenced by what Democrats might say.
“I think Republicans need to listen to this news conference and listen to these women [anti-abortion activists],” Graham told reporters. “We’re not gonna live in a world where … we retreat.”
In the House, where a group of more than 80 Republicans introduced a companion version of the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a similar message.
“The nationwide abortion ban proposal put forth today is 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,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Make no mistake: if Republicans get the chance, they will work to pass laws even more draconian than this bill – just like the bans they have enacted in states like Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma,” Pelosi said.