GOP’s 15-Week Abortion Ban Is a Midterm Tactic — But Not in the Way You Think

Tuesday was less than three months since the Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision. Roe v. WadeSenator Lindsay Graham (R. South Carolina) introduced a 15-week national abortion ban in the U.S. Senate. This bill is the first Republican abortion ban since 2006. Roe’s end, contains exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the pregnant person. The measure is sure to fail in the Democratically controlled Senate, where it would need to get 60 votes to override a filibuster, and it’s out of step with the majority of Americans, who support safe, legal abortion care — a number that has only grown in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. WadeIn June

The bill’s timing seems odd. It seems odd that the bill was proposed by a Republican senator.

The timing and the legislation aren’t mistakes or accidents. They are instead a reflection of the long game Republicans and abortion opponents have played on abortion for decades. One that helped them win. Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal in a dozen states –– moving the goal posts to the right. A decade ago, a prominent Senate Republican had proposed a 15-week ban on abortion. Roe v. WadeIt was the law of the land and had been upheld by the Supreme Court. Republicans were coming up with ways to make abortion more difficult than banning it. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP)Trying to work around laws RoeInstead of violating it explicitly, Now, it’s not only par for the course; this proposed ban is being used as a media tool to position the party that ripped our constitutional right to abortion from underneath us as somehow more middle-of-the-road.

You can see the responses of other prominent Republicans to help you understand how this strategically used messaging tool works. Senator John Cornyn (R.Texas), commented on the ban proposal. CNN that he’d like to “have each state handle those issues.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) echoed him, saying, “I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level.”

They have been since Roe was overturned in June, unleashing a wave of outrage among broad swaths of the electorate, many Republicans once again chose to frame abortion as a “states’ rights” issue — one that they, at the federal level, aren’t interested in pursuing.

Their records show that they lie, just as they did when Republican-nominated justices stated that Roe v. WadeWas settled law. Both Cornyn and McConnell have voted for 20-week abortion bans in the past, and there is no reason to believe that they wouldn’t support other national bans even though they claim to reject this one.

When Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was settled in June. Senator Cornyn issued a statement, praising the ruling as a “historic victory for life.” Prior to Roe’s demise, McConnell said that if the landmark ruling was indeed overturned, a national abortion ban was, in fact, “possible.” In response to Graham’s proposed 15-week ban, former Vice President Mike Pence once again reiteratedThe next Republican president will support a national ban on abortion, possibly allowing it to take effect.

Senator Graham, who won reelection in 2020 and won’t face South Carolina voters again until 2026, has nothing to lose from proposing a national 15-week ban now. With the Senate, House and presidency all controlled by the Democrats, the bill won’t pass. He knows this. Other Republicans also know this. This is a fact that everyone knows. Proposing the 15-week ban now allows Senator Graham to position himself as a “pro-life” leader while allowing many of his Republican colleagues to feign distance from an abortion ban and position themselves as more moderate on the issue, just weeks before the midterm elections.

National Republicans have seen the ban proposed in this article create headlines that are nothing short of amazing. “Republicans Struggle to Unite Party Around National Abortion Restrictions,” reads the New York Times. “Graham’s abortion ban stuns Senate GOP,” says Politico. At ABC News, the headline is even more explicit: “Graham’s proposed near-total abortion ban quickly meets GOP resistance.”

The narrative spin is working –– mainstream media coverage is suddenly allowing many Republicans to masquerade as far more moderate on the issue of abortion than their voting records or previous statements would indicate. The Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked federal attempts to protect abortion rights. Numerous restrictions have been supported by the Senate Republicans, and they have voted for them. 20-week abortion banThis was just two years ago.

Instead of talking about how Republicans created a post-election America, let’s talk about how they have created a postelection America.RoeHellscape in which 10-year-old rapeVictims are sometimes forced to travel out-of-state for abortion care. forced to carry a dead fetus inside of her for two weeks after she miscarried, the media narrative is focused on how Senate Republicans refuse to support Graham’s 15-week abortion ban.

Abortion is once again reduced to a political football, and Republicans now have a narrative opening to slither out of the hole they dug for themselves by using this doomed-from-the-start abortion ban as a straw man for their moderating posture. For decades, Republicans put in the tedious work of shifting the legislative goal posts around abortion further and further to the right, all while publicly posturing about moderation and settled law, chiding abortion rights supporters as “hysterical” for asserting that Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court was a death knell for Roe v. Wade. Now, they’re doing it again with their response to this 15-week abortion ban.

Make no mistake –– there has been no change of heart for this party. The proposed abortion ban and the resulting Republican arm-flailing aren’t the result of a moderated approach to abortion rights. This is a ploy to convince the American public that Republicans are not extremists. It’s well past time to stop letting them get away with it.