WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban abortions once a pregnancy reaches the 20-week mark, pushing Senate legislation that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed earlier this year.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican running for election next year to a third term, cited significant advancements in science and technology since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which prohibited abortions in the last trimester of pregnancy.
“We now know that an unborn child at the 20th week of pregnancy can feel pain,” Graham said. “In fact, anesthesia is administered directly to unborn children in second-trimester fetal surgery. Given these facts and the continued strong support for life, I believe there is a compelling interest in protecting these unborn children, who are among the most vulnerable in our society.”
Graham’s measure, called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has 33 co-sponsors, all Republicans, which represents about 75 percent of all GOP senators.
Among the co-sponsors is fellow South Carolinian, Republican Sen. Tim Scott. Other include: Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“We have an obligation to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves,” Scott told McClatchy. “It’s especially important that we protect unborn children who are capable of experiencing pain and suffering.”
About 55 percent of Americans back imposing a 20-week limit on abortions, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
“By protecting life at 20 weeks of age, it upholds values Americans hold dear in shielding the innocent from harm and pain,” Roberts said.
On another hot-button issue, Graham, Scott and Burr joined a majority of Republican senators Thursday in voting against a bill to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Ten GOP senators supported the gay rights legislation, which passed the Senate.
Such stances will help Graham among conservative activists in South Carolina’s Senate Republican primary next June. He faces three opponents: Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of The Citadel and owner of a small public relations firm in Charleston, S.C.; Richard Cash, an attorney and businessman in Anderson, S.C.; and state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg.
Graham’s abortion bill has exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest against a minor, and if an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
The measure was hailed by anti-abortion groups and assailed by pro-choice advocates.
“A growing number of states and the U.S. House have now voted to end the barbaric practice of late abortion past the point at which the child can feel pain,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List group.
“Blatantly disregarding the protections of the U.S. Constitution and the health, rights and dignity of women nationwide, this bill once again seeks to insert politicians between women and their doctors in complicated, highly personal medical decisions,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Rubio, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, had planned on being lead sponsor of the legislation, but let Graham take that role after expressing concerns that the measure could not withstand a court challenge.
The House passed a similar bill in June, with six Democrats joining 222 Republicans in the 228-196 vote.
With several anti-abortion Democratic senators, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada indicated in July he was open to permitting a vote on the Graham legislation. Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, has signaled that she will marshal Senate opposition to the measure.