Get Ready For The Next Big Abortion Fight

Republicans failed to strip Obamacare of its birth control mandate, and are instead turning their focus to restricting abortion as much as they can. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a new abortion limits bill on Thursday, which would seek to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A similar bill already passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Abortion rights groups sent out warning calls Thursday morning. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Ilyse Hogue wrote of a tough choice faced by a woman named Dana, who received a difficult diagnosis for her child during pregnancy. “But it was Dana’s decision to make,” Hogue wrote. “Not Sen. Graham’s. Not any politician’s.” Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards wrote in an appeal that the vast majority of abortions take place before 21 weeks. “When abortion later in pregnancy does occur, it’s often due to medical issues, or tragic complications… and recent polling shows that most Americans believe that women should have access to abortion in these devastating circumstances,” Richards wrote.

Richards' statement contradicts an oft-cited statistic that 55 percent of voters support an abortion limit of 20 weeks. But that question, posed by pollsters at Quinnipiac, simply asked respondents whether they preferred a limit of 20 or 24 weeks. It did not elaborate on the reasons many women and their doctors decide on an abortion later in the pregnancy.

Of course, Graham hasn’t come close to getting anyone pregnant. He’s a “confirmed bachelor,” to use an appropriately antiquated phrase — and this has led many to speculate that, like Ed Koch or Roy Cohn, he is a closeted gay man, despite (because of?) the fact that he consistently votes against gay rights. And, though he’s sometimes broken rank to work on issues like immigration reform, Graham tends to vote by Republican lines.

But his occasional support of immigration reform and similar initiatives has cost Graham some conservative street cred — an issue alluded to by David Christensen of the Family Research Council, an anti-gay hate group. "There is a political advantage to anyone who is the lead sponsor,” Christensen said. Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, agreed, and said that Graham’s motives didn’t matter. “If Lindsey is backing this legislation because it will help him politically, I don’t see how that’s bad for us,” he said.

But Graham said his push for the legislation is all about doing what’s right.

“The government has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn child over the 20-week period because they are capable of feeling pain and the scientific evidence is overwhelming,” Graham said. “When you do surgery on a 20-week baby, you provide anesthesia because of pain.”

Of course, playing the abortion card is no longer a guaranteed boost for Republicans. Harshly conservative views are widely credited for helping Ken Cuccinelli lose Virginia’s gubernatorial election earlier this week. Then again, Virginia is a state that sometimes swings blue, while South Carolina, where Graham is from, is more solidly red.

Since Democratic leadership hasn't ruled out a senate vote on the bill, both sides are gearing up for a long, tough battle to convince swing senators to vote for or against the bill. If the bill passes, it may be the biggest limitation imposed on a woman’s right to choose since the 2003 federal ban on dilation and extraction abortions. But, as Mother Jones reports, that's unlikely.

The bill, notes National Review Online, does not have uniform support among Senate Republicans. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), worries that Congress does not have the authority to pass this bill under the Commerce Clause, and that the bill as written would be congressional overrreach.
In July, Harry Reid, who is pro-life, said he'd be "happy" to consider putting a 20-week abortion ban to a vote in the Senate but that the Senate shouldn't focus on "fringe issues." Political handicappers note that the Senate does not have the votes to pass Graham's bill.

But don't think that means certain members of the GOP won't try.