Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill Tuesday, Sept. 13, that seeks to protect pain-capable pre-born babies from abortion.
The legislation, titled the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act,” would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks gestation—a point in development at which research shows pain can be experienced by a fetus.
Center for Urban Renewal and Education President Star Parker, speaking alongside Graham, Tuesday, noted that the United States Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision “returned abortion policy to the democratic process” and thanked Graham for introducing the “life-affirming legislation.”
Many pro-life advocates–including several who spoke at a press conference with Graham, Tuesday, believe that though this legislation does not go as far as many desire in protecting life at every stage, it is a step in the right direction and provides a first-step piece of legislation that can garner broad support. Others were less enthused by Graham's announcement, some seeing it as a an impotent measure that will merely serve to upset enough Democrats to activate their voting base ahead of midterm elections, and others seeing it as a morally flawed effort that misses the mark in setting an arbitrary point at which some abortions would remain legal and essentially acceptable.
Pastor and abolitionist Dusty Deevers said as much in response, Tuesday, via Twitter.
"No. This is atrocious. Senator @LindseyGrahamSC has been trained by the Pro-life establishment. Write a law to ban ab0rt1on after 14 weeks, & the same law, by consequence, federally mandates ab0rt1on before 15 weeks. Foolishness. God demands equal protection for all preborn," Deevers' post read.
Conservative commentator and author Allie Beth Stuckey offered guarded optimism for the efficacy of the bill.
"This is great, if Republicans play it right. When Dems vote against it, it serves as a reminder to those middle-of-the-road voters that they’re truly radical on abortion," Stuckey tweeted Tuesday.
Fellow conservative David Limbaugh said he was "between enraged and sad" after watching a clip of Graham's press conference.
"...Lindsey Graham offered a fed. bill to cut off abortion at 15 weeks because that’s when unborns feel pain. Pathetic. Pain matters, of course, but the issue is life. The baby is a human being at 0 weeks, Lindsey. Shame on you," Limbaugh tweeted.
Further reaction to this legislation may shape Republicans' position on how to end abortion in the days to come. Some call for an incremental approach, and others call for absolute and immediate abolition. Many who describe themselves as pro-life find themselves in a confusing middle ground, desiring to support incremental advances in eradicating abortion and supporting a swift-as-possible end to the atrocity that has claimed more than 63 million lives in the United States. Both sectors of the anti-abortion movement say they desire to see an end to abortion, although some holding the abolitionist position have questioned in recent months whether the incremental approach is simply a fundraising issue for political gain. It is easier, some say, to raise money when there is a perpetual crisis with which voters resonate and which they are compelled to help solve through financial support. It is unclear at this point which philosophy will maintain control of the "pro-life" effort overall and set the direction for conservative public policy.
What does seem clear, though, is that the majority of Americans appear to support ending abortion access at some point before birth. (Conversely, some Democrats support measures that allow babies to be killed days after birth, and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly refused to support measures to require medical care for infants accidentally born alive in failed abortions,)
Despite Democrats’ claims that the majority of the nation does not support limits to abortion, National Right to Life News cited in a Sept. 13 news release that according to a recent Harvard poll, 72 percent of Americans oppose abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Further, according to a January 2022 Marist poll, 71 percent of Americans oppose abortion after the first three months of pregnancy.
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini reported similar statistics during the Tuesday press conference—statistics that are unlikely to appear on mainstream news reports regarding public sentiment on abortion.
“Ninety percent of Americans reject the view that abortion should be legal up until birth, which is what the Women’s Health Protection Act stood for.” Mancini said. “Politicians voting against this bill will stand against science and against the American public, not to mention basic compassion for women and babies.”
“Ninety percent of Americans reject the view that abortion should be legal up until birth ...Politicians voting against this bill will stand against science and against the American public, not to mention basic compassion for women and babies.”
- Jeanne Mancini
The text of the bill highlights the fact that doctors operating on fetal patients use anesthesia to prevent the sensation of pain. It follows logically, then, that aborting a child through suction (D&C) or through dismemberment (D&E) would inflict a great deal of pain and that no reasonable person should support inflicting such severe pain on a child.
“In considering the use of anesthesia for invasive medical procedures performed on the fetus, doctors have concluded, based on the evidence, that, from as early as 12 weeks gestational age, and certainly by 15 weeks gestational age, the fetus is extremely sensitive to painful stimuli, making it necessary to apply adequate analgesia and anesthesia to prevent fetal suffering,” the bill reads.
Graham was asked by a reporter about how he “squares” introducing legislation on a national level rather than leaving the issue of abortion to be decided solely in the states.
“Pretty easy,” Graham said. “After they introduced a bill to define who they are, I thought it’d be nice to introduce a bill to define who we are.”
Graham acknowledged that some legislation can require years to be passed and said that while passing this with the current Democrat-controlled Congress would be difficult, chances may improve if Republicans gain more seats in upcoming elections. This legislation, he explained, allows the nation to begin having the conversation about why babies who can feel pain should be protected from being dismembered and killed in the womb. Some, however, desire the conversation to focus on why babies of every age deserve equal protection under the law.
“There is a discussion going on in America about abortion,” Graham said. “We’re not afraid to talk about it. We’re proud to be pro-life. We’re not going to apologize to anybody about being pro-life. We respect people who disagree with us. We just want to vote. We want to have the discussion.”
"We’re not going to apologize to anybody about being pro-life. We respect people who disagree with us. We just want to vote."
- Sen. Lindsey Graham
The full text of the bill is linked here.
Watch the press conference here.