Lindsey Graham wants to force a vote on his junk science abortion ban

Graham is facing a June primary, so he's scrounging for red meat to toss his conservative base

By Katie McDonough
Published May 13, 2014 2:24PM (EDT)
                             (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is expected to force a vote Tuesday on a nationwide ban on abortion at 20 weeks. The measure has very little chance of passing the Senate, but Graham is facing a June primary, so he's probably just getting muscular about restricting reproductive healthcare in an effort to drum up his base.

Graham also wants Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow concurrent votes on his abortion ban and a measure from Sen. Richard Blumenthal that would prohibit states from enacting burdensome and medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers. “We’re going to talk about the 20-week pain-capable bill, and we’re going to ask Sen. Reid to allow us to have a vote. Sen. Blumenthal has a bill that’s really a top priority of the pro-choice community. So let’s have a vote on both. I think the topic’s worthy of debate. I know he’s very sincere and I’m very sincere,” Graham said of the plan. “He said every senator needs to be on the record. I agree with that.”

Fetuses at 20 weeks are not "pain-capable." This antiabortion talking point has been refuted as pseudoscience by nearly every major medical association, including the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (And smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and other institutions.) And the measure that Graham is pushing here isn't even something he's come up with on his own. It's draft legislation from Americans United for Life, which is basically the ALEC of the anti-choice movement. Graham may be the force behind it in the Senate, but he's not the author of the measure. It's a cut-and-paste job and a disingenuous piece of legislation intended to scale back legal abortion as defined by Roe v. Wade, plain and simple. (Seriously, look at this thing. All someone like Graham needs to do is slap his name on it and assign it a number. It's a joke.)

Reproductive rights advocates have called Graham's push for the ban pure political pandering that has nothing to do with the issues that would best serve his constituents. (They are correct.)

"In the midst of a national crisis for reproductive health care, the choice before Congress is clear. 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," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Right, said in a statement. "[Sen. Blumenthal's] Women's Health Protection Act would ensure access to safe, legal, high-quality care for women facing the often complicated personal decision to end a pregnancy, while the legislative attacks of Senator Graham and his allies put women at risk of grave harm."


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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20 Week Abortion Bans Abortion Abortion Rights Fetal Pain Fetal Pain Is A Lie Lindsey Graham