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You’ve likely seen the headlines, often wildly inaccurate, on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) legislation to federalize abortion laws. It would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks, which some claim is when a fetus feels pain, except to save the life of the mother.
“Lindsey Graham’s national abortion ban bill makes the midterm stakes very clear,” screamed Vox, a leftist blog site. “Lindsey Graham proposes new national abortion restrictions bill,” proclaimed Axios, a fast-growing leftist news site.
Put aside for now the political wisdom – or lack thereof – of a Republican Member of Congress advocating for a national abortion law during an election (in which he’s conveniently not on the ballot). How would Graham’s legislation affect the prevalence of abortion today?
Not much. I wrote about it last September not long after the US Supreme Court decided to hear Dobbs vs. Jackson, which the Supreme Court in July used to overturn Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Daniel Flynn from The American Spectator (emphasis added):
The Lozier Institute released data indicating that the abortions banned under Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal represent fringe cases. “State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abortion data indicate that overall, approximately 6% of all reported abortions take place at or after 15 weeks of gestation,” the group notes in a press release. “When applied to the Guttmacher Institute’s most recent estimate of 930,160 abortions nationwide in 2020, this is approximately 55,800 abortions at 15 weeks or later each year.” In other words, women who wait around until four-months pregnant to terminate a pregnancy number very few. Why does the Left then seek to defend something so barbarous—and rare? Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Austria, and other European countries severely restrict abortion even earlier than when Senator Graham proposes. A national law on this question, in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning a de facto national law preventing abortion restrictions, strikes as politically unwise. But who but a liar pretends that what Graham proposes, rather than the abortion-on-demand schema of his opponents, strikes as the oh-the-humanity outlier?
Politically, Graham’s bill is a head-scratcher. True, Republicans generally are stumbling badly on communicating about abortion. The Senator sees a vacuum and wants to fill it. The components of this bill may test well in public polling. Some may think it contrasts effectively with the fact that every Democrat in Congress has voted for legislation to permit abortion, for any reasons, by any means, up to birth, and even strikes state parental notification laws. Such an approach is favored by only about 10 percent of voters. Just pointing that out would be a massive messaging improvement for conservatives. Having Congress determine abortion law is only favored by 31 percent in a recent poll.
Michigan, Vermont, and California voters will vote on such a policy in November under the guise of “reproductive freedom” or “automony.” Michigan’s initiative (and the misbranded Women’s Health Protection Act) includes a phony “ban” on abortions after fetal viability with a huge exception loophole for “mental health.”
But strong pro-life voters and ardent supporters of practically unlimited abortions won’t be mollified. This election is mostly about the economy (inflation and affordability), with crime and our open southern border foremost in voters’ minds. Abortion falls after that in most voters’ minds. But among those who place this issue closer to the top of their concerns will not support Graham’s approach, never mind the inadvisability of elevating the abortion issue some seven weeks before congressional elections. States, not Congress, is the battlefield on this issue, at least for now.
When engaged in congressional campaigns, I always focused my late messaging on what question I want voters to ask when deciding whom to vote for. Best example: Ronald Reagan’s closing debate question in 1980: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
GOP challenger Ronald Reagan closed his debate with President Jimmy Carter with the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
In 2022, Republicans need voters to ask, “Which candidate will help or hurt Joe Biden’s agenda?” After all, Biden continues to suffer from “underwater” job approval ratings and horrific right-track-wrong-track numbers. Having an agenda that contrasts with Biden’s unpopular one is helpful if it is simple and well-communicated. Focusing on their opponent’s extremism – including their radical support for unfettered abortions – will help cement moderate and swing voters who are already clearly leaning the GOP’s way in 2022. Voters almost always see midterm elections as a referendum on the incumbent president.
Graham’s abortion bill is unwise and unwelcome, both politically and substantively. Add to that media’s insulting headlines and reporting that frequently misleads voters, whether on Graham’s bill or the abortion issue in general. But regardless, the abortion issue (nor, hopefully, Donald Trump) is not going to save Democrats in November.Published in