Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has a message for his U.S. Senate colleagues: Get ready for a debate on late-term abortions.
Graham on June 11 unveiled a Senate bill mirroring the 20-week abortion ban the House passed last month. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has 45 Republican co-sponsors, and Graham guaranteed it will receive a full debate in the Senate by the end of 2015.
“What I’m looking for is a debate with those who oppose this,” Graham said at a Capitol press conference with pro-life leaders. “Tell me the upside of [late-term abortion]. … What are we achieving here? Why are we better as a nation? I’m dying for that debate.”
Graham’s announcement came 10 days after he officially joined the 2016 Republican presidential field with a campaign mostly focused on foreign-policy issues. On Thursday, Graham signaled he’s not leaving social conservatives behind. Citing the bill’s widespread public support, he said fellow Senate Republicans in tight 2016 reelection campaigns shouldn’t worry about voting on it.
“Don’t get in politics if you don’t want to talk about things like this,” he said, listing reasons to support the bill. “If you can’t sell [the ban] as a reasonable position, you’re probably going to get beat anyway. “
Graham, who introduced similar legislation in 2013 amid his own contentious reelection bid, told me not one of his Republican colleagues has asked him to back off the bill.
“You can have dispute about abortions in the first trimester, but at five months you’re in pretty good position to defend yourself,” Graham said after the event. “I think there’s some people on the Democratic side that would like to not have this debate.”
Numerous national polls have found the majority of Americans support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation—generally by a 2-1 margin—across demographic lines, including some who consider themselves pro-choice. Democratic voters split roughly in half on the issue, but last month only four House Democrats joined 238 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.
Graham and several pro-life speakers assailed the United States for being one of seven nations without a late-term abortion ban—including North Korea, China, and Vietnam.
“As far as human rights go, the fewer things America has in common with the evil regimes of North Korea and China the better,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “It’s time for us, as Americans, to leave this club of seven.”
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said the bill is good for both mothers and children, noting women are 35 times more likely to die from a late-term than a first-trimester abortion.
“Today, we’re standing as men and women to say, enough is enough,” she said.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to schedule Graham’s bill for consideration in the Senate, but it likely will not receive the 60 votes necessary to come to the floor for a full vote. Republicans hold 54 seats, and not all of them have committed to support the bill.
Graham said he’s most interested in sparking a long overdue debate about when someone becomes a person deserving of legal protection. He acknowledged the bill won’t be signed into law without a pro-life president, but he did offer a prediction.
“Over time, we will win,” he said, predicting an increasing number of Americans will back the ban. “One day, this bill will be signed into law.”
— by J.C. Derrick