Exactly what game is Lindsey Graham playing with his abortion bill?
On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham unexpectedly came out as an ostensibly pro-life leader when he announced that, if Republicans take Congress, he plans a bill banning abortions across America after the fifteenth week of pregnancy. For Democrats, the effect was electric. They framed the issue as a total abortion ban and sent their campaigns into overdrive. Conservatives, however, were perplexed for both practical and constitutional reasons. I'm perplexed for one very specific reason: the proposed law does almost nothing to stop abortions in America. So what's going on?
Graham's presentation regarding the abortion bill made two good points. First, he noted that America's policy of unlimited abortions is an outlier around the world. Kathleen Brush has all the details supporting that statement. Around the world, most countries stop abortions when the pregnancy is between 12 and 15 weeks along. China is the exception, being more aligned with the pre-Dobbs situation in America — namely, unlimited abortion.
Second, Graham noted that, if surgeons perform prenatal operations on the fetus, starting at 15 weeks, they use anesthetics because the fetus can feel pain. Logically, the fetus experiences pain when it's aborted. So, again, Graham had some good points to make.
Image: Lindsey Graham. YouTube screen grab.
According to CNN, Graham made the presentation because he thinks the bill is a policy issue that will rally conservatives before the election. That's absolute horse pucky. The bill has completely galvanized Democrats who are already calling it an "abortion ban," even though it's not (more on that in a minute). It's fundraising gold for them and will see a lot of people — especially women, who are often single-issue voters — head to the polls to shut down any Republican candidates.
Republicans are confused. They get that there are three reasons the proposal is a fake:
First, as Glenn Reynolds explains, the Dobbs decision says the federal government has no say in abortion matters. It's purely a states' rights issue. Graham is making a promise to take a step that is denied to Congress ab initio.
Second, even if a Republican Congress votes for and passes the bill (despite lacking the power to do so), there's no chance that Joe Biden will sign it into law. Without a supermajority (and that won't happen), Biden can veto the bill, and there's nothing the Republicans can do.
Third, and this is the really sneaky one, the bill will almost completely undercut Dobbs. Currently, thanks to abortion being returned to states, local communities can enact (and have enacted) laws that virtually end abortion. Whether or not you agree with that, that's how our constitutional system is supposed to work. If there were a federal law allowing abortion up to 15 weeks, that would vitiate those state laws.
Some might counter that lives that will no longer be saved in anti-abortion states would be set off by the hundreds of thousands saved in states that currently have unlimited abortion access. On average, it would be a good thing.
Wrong! And this is where Lindsey Graham is a real weasel.
Second- and third-trimester abortions shock the conscience because third-trimester babies are totally viable, and many second-trimester babies are viable as well. Nevertheless, while they are useful for pointing out abortion's barbarism, these late-term babies don't account for most abortions.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 94.6% of all abortions in America happen by the 15th week of a woman's pregnancy. In America in 2020, there were 930,160 abortions. If Graham's 15-week ban had been in place in 2020, approximately 879,931 of those abortions would still have occurred. In other words, the 15-week ban Graham proposes will do almost nothing to stop the carnage.
So roughly two months before the midterm elections, Lindsey Graham, with great fanfare, proposes an "abortion ban" that (a) galvanizes the Democrats, (b) is unconstitutional, (c) cannot get a presidential signature, and (d) does almost nothing to stop the Holocaust of infants in America. What the heck kind of a game is he playing?
Think about this: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is peculiarly unwilling to help MAGA candidates. Voters want them, but Mitch McConnell doesn't. With a nod to John Milton's Paradise Lost, I suggested that McConnell might prefer ruling in Hell over serving in Heaven; that is, he'd rather be Senate minority leader than risk getting ousted from that position by a MAGA Republican majority.
I wouldn't be surprised if Lindsey Graham, although not the majority leader, also prefers the way things are compared to the way they could be if the MAGA team triumphs. He'd be a much less important senator with a more conservative Senate.
So either Graham has a Machiavellian plan to maintain Republicans' majority status, or he's a fool. And I really don't think Graham's a fool.