Entering a neatly prepared room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed jubilant to be introducing a national 15-week abortion ban in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned this summer.
But while Graham figuratively thumped his chest, Democrats throughout Washington on Tuesday were locking eyes with the bill, almost instantly behaving as if Graham was throwing them a thick, juicy bone.
For months Democrats have been warning of the very possibility Graham is now making a reality: Republicans pushing for a national abortion ban taking away states’ rights. With Graham’s latest version of the bill introduced, just weeks before an election no less, Democrats no longer have to speak in hypotheticals.
“If we take back the House and Senate, I can assure we’ll have a vote,” Graham said at a press conference.
Democrats wasted no time in seizing on Graham's message.
“Senate Republicans are showing voters exactly what they would do if they are in charge: pass a nationwide abortion ban and strip away women’s right to make our own health care decisions… the stakes of protecting and expanding our Democratic Senate Majority in November have never been higher,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Nora Keefe.
“Very simple: If you want to protect the right to choose, and you want to protect a woman’s right to health care, vote for more Democratic senators. You want to have a nationwide abortion ban? Vote for MAGA Republicans,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday.
“There you have it — if Republicans take control, they will vote to pass a national abortion ban. Take them at their word,” the Democratic National Committee’s War Room wrote in a tweet.
“Lindsey Graham just said the quiet part out loud. The right to an abortion is on the ballot this November…” tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY).
Graham said Tuesday that he wants to try and put Democrats on the record about whether they support a 15-week abortion ban.The first nine pages of the bill base the 15-week cutoff around the argument that fetuses begin to feel pain around that point—though research on the exact point that fetuses can feel pain varies.
Graham also insisted he wants a vote on the bill in the immediate future, insisting he believes a few Democrats could possibly join Republicans on the issue.
Asked whether he spoke to Minority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about the bill, Graham said no, but a few hours later, he may have wished he had.
“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell told reporters.
McConnell wasn’t the only Republican annoyed at Graham’s timing on a day that should have been a slam dunk in the message wars. Tuesday morning, the latest Consumer Price Index report said inflation is still on the rise, even as gas prices fell dramatically in August.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) told Politico curtly, “I’m not sure what he’s thinking here. But I don’t think there will be a rallying around that concept.”
Democrats jumping to capitalize on Graham’s new bill also comes after a number of voting wins on abortion for the party. Kansas passed a pro-abortion-rights ballot referendum last month—and Democrats have won competitive House races in Alaska and New York in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling.
Voter registration among women and young people is also on the rise, a trend pollsters have attributed in part to the abortion rights issue.
Graham's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Democrats latching on to the issue.
But Graham brushed off concerns that abortion has been a force for Democratic voter turnout at his press conference Tuesday, and questions about whether his bill would make the situation worse for Republicans this midterm cycle.
“I don’t think this is going to hurt us,” he said. “I think it’ll more likely hurt them when they try to explain to some reasonable person why it’s OK.”