On Tuesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. in danger.
Which leads to an obvious question: Why?
After all, Republicans have desperately backtracked on abortion almost since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade this summer, ending the constitutional right to abortion.
GOP candidates have been busy cleaning their websites of their more strident abortion language, which in many cases has helped them win their primaries as they see the political comeback in the electorate general.
A recent poll suggests that while public opinion is more divided on a 15-week ban than the court’s overturning of Roe, which is widely unpopular, a majority of Americans still oppose Graham’s proposed limit. .
And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell seemed, uh, less than happy with Graham’s gamble. McConnell told CNN’s Manu Raju that he thought the majority of Republican senators would prefer to leave the issue of abortion to the states.
The resistance Graham’s plan met almost immediately — and the glee with which Democrats clung to it — suggests it may be short-lived.
But it’s worth asking: what was he trying to do?
Here’s my theory: Graham sees his party being bludgeoned on the issue. And some conservative states have now implemented near-total abortion bans. This puts Republican Senate candidates across the country constantly on the defensive, trying to defend a position extremely unpopular with the public.
And so, Graham is trying to give the Republican candidates something to say that he thinks connects the needle between keeping the GOP base, which is adamantly opposed to abortion in all its forms, happy and not totally alienating the center of the electorate.
Graham hopes to give Republicans a positive talking point on the abortion issue — something his side can point to as proof that they are not the intolerant ogres that Democrats have, to date, effectively presented as following the Supreme Court’s decision.
The alternative analysis of Graham’s decision is that he deeply believes that abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy should be banned and that his side should be registered on this. Period. But while Graham may well believe that, he is far too savvy to simply roll out this plan less than two months before an election without considering the political consequences of doing so.
(Inset: The fact that House Republicans also imposed a 15-week ban — and unveiled it the same day Graham did — suggests a level of coordination that indicates politics is behind it all.)
Will it work? It’s not at all clear – especially since the Democrats control the Senate, which makes Graham’s bet somewhat dependent on what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks is the right policy move. for his side.
Point: Graham’s scheme is a major flashpoint in the Senate majority fight. It remains to be seen who it helps and who it hurts.