On Tuesday, September 13, Senator Lindsey Graham proposed a national bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The senator appears to be reversing his previous position that states should determine abortion legality. This bill would override the abortion laws in states with less restrictive laws. While it’s unlikely the bill will go anywhere, its announcement is marking a political line in the sand just 60 days before the midterm elections.
Strategically, he’s calling the bill the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.” This is a charged title for a bill, and one that attempts to paint it as protecting fetuses from pain. However, reputable medical studies, such as one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last summer, have found this idea to be false. They find that a fetus cannot feel pain until close to 30 weeks of gestation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) also considers the case to be closed as to whether a fetus can feel pain at that stage in development. Instead, this bill would cause massive pain of all kinds by imposing unwanted pregnancies – real pain for many of these children, as well as those forced to stay pregnant or give birth.
Additionally, the reality of this bill is that the 15-week limit would criminalize abortions at a stage when many fetal abnormalities are only just becoming detectable. Forcing these pregnancies to continue would lead to a miserable and short life for the fetus, not to mention risk the health of the pregnant person. It would also force many to carry high-risk pregnancies to term, putting the pregnant person in unnecessary danger. Additionally, it would cause many to flee the country in search of legal abortions, or otherwise risk infection and death by using risky solutions.
Some supporters of the bill recount a Harvard Harris poll released earlier in the year, showing that 77% of people polled did not support laws allowing abortion after 15 weeks. Yet at the same time, they fail to mention that the same poll demonstrated that more than half were opposed to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
So this bill may be one way Republicans like Graham are trying to paint a post-15-week abortion ban as moderate policy, based on wide support. But it’s not working. Even some Republicans are distancing themselves from the bill, while Democrats are using the bill to remind voters that Republicans just want to strip away your right to abortion.
Ultimately, we can’t let our right to healthcare and the ability to have control over our own reproduction be decided by any legislative body. Safe access to abortion was only won in the first place because of mass mobilizing and demonstrations in the streets. If we want to preserve this access, we must not just demand it, we must act!
Join us at our upcoming virtual townhall, where we’ll discuss the fight for reproductive rights, and learn lessons from the past that we can take with us into our organizing in the future.