Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to try to force a vote Tuesday on legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide, but Senate Democrats are unlikely to let Graham’s attempt move forward.
The bill, HR 1797, passed the U.S. House in June, and Graham introduced a companion bill in the Senate in November amid speculation that he was trying to bolster his credibility with anti-choice voters in a tough primary fight.
Graham told Politico that he plans to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to consider bringing up both the 20-week ban and the Women’s Health Protection Act, a pro-choice bill sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that would prevent state legislatures from unfairly targeting abortion providers for no medical reason.
“We have no intention of entertaining that,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide told RH Reality Check. “It doesn’t really matter what they attach it to because we have strong objections to the underlying Graham bill.” The aide said that pro-choice senators will likely be on the floor to object to Graham’s proposal.
Graham is centering his push around the May 13 anniversary of rogue abortion provider Kermit Gosnell‘s murder conviction, in an apparent attempt to conflate killing infants with what he calls “late-term abortion.” But Gosnell’s crimes have nothing to do with the provision of safe, legal abortion care to women whose later pregnancies go wrong. Abortions at or after 20 weeks are rare and often medically necessary, and a fetus is usually not viable outside the womb until at least 24 weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, the Supreme Court has consistently held that bans on abortion before viability, and at a specific point in pregnancy not determined by a doctor, are unconstitutional.
The 20-week ban would allow exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman or for rape or incest. It also has a health exception that is more narrow than what the Supreme Court has mandated. It does not allow exceptions for fetal anomalies, which are often not detected until after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“In the midst of a national crisis for reproductive health care, the choice before Congress is clear,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “They must advance federal legislation that would truly defend women’s well-being, safety, and rights, not political attacks that can only worsen the dangerous circumstances that millions of women nationwide now face.”