Gra­ham’s bill bars most abor­tions af­ter 20 weeks

Se­na­tor says his pro-life be­liefs, not pol­i­tics be­hind it

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Fac­ing po­lit­i­cal chal­lengers on his right flank back home in South Carolina, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham in­tro­duced a bill Thurs­day that would ban most abor­tions na­tion­wide af­ter 20 weeks of preg­nancy — putting the vet­eran law­maker in the mid­dle of a re­newed na­tional de­bate over late-term abor­tions.

The push comes de­spite some con­cerns — in­clud­ing from within the Repub­li­can ranks — that the pro­posal could be un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Flanked by pro-life ad­vo­cates, Mr. Gra­ham said ad­vance­ments in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy have shown that un­born chil­dren can feel pain af­ter about six months and that he is speak­ing up on their be­half by push­ing the Pain Ca­pa­ble Un­born Child Pro­tec­tion Act.

“We are choos­ing to­day to speak up for all ba­bies at 20 weeks, and try­ing to cre­ate le­gal pro­tec­tions un­der the the­ory that if you can feel pain, the gov­ern­ment should pro­tect you from be­ing de­stroyed by an abor­tion, which I imag­ine would be a very painful way to die,” the South Carolina Repub­li­can said.

The two-term se­na­tor has been tar­geted by tea party con­ser­va­tives and will have at least three chal­lengers in the South Carolina GOP pri­mary next year.

The leg­is­la­tion he rolled out Thurs­day carves out abor­tion ex­emp­tions in the case of rape or in­cest against a mi­nor or to save the life of the mother.

More than 30 Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate have signed onto the bill, though there are some no­table ex­cep­tions, in­clud­ing Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Mike Lee of Utah, a pair of tea party fa­vorites and self-de­scribed con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­va­tives.

Brian Phillips, a Lee spokesman, said the fresh­man se­na­tor is still mulling over the po­ten­tial con­sti­tu­tional hur­dles. “That’s what he’s work­ing on and why he’s talk­ing to other mem­bers and out­side groups,” Mr. Phillips said. Mr. Paul’s of­fice did not re­spond to a phone call and email seek­ing com­ment.

The pro­posal, though, does have sup­port from a cou­ple of other tea party fa­vorites: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Ru­bio of Florida.

“We’ll con­tinue to work with other se­na­tors on lan­guage that ad­dresses the con­sti­tu­tional is­sues, but he wanted to co-spon­sor Gra­ham’s leg­is­la­tion be­cause he agrees with the bill’s goals,” said Alex Co­nant, a Ru­bio spokesman.

Pro-life sup­port­ers of the bill say they are con­fi­dent they have le­gal stand­ing, and say the Com­merce Clause grants Congress the power to con­trol in­ter­state com­merce, and is broad enough to en­com­pass lim­it­ing abor­tions. And they cite the 14th Amend­ment’s equal pro­tec­tion and due process guar­an­tees.

Mr. Gra­ham, mean­while, sug­gested Thurs­day that it is up to the courts, not Congress, to de­cide the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the law.

“We are not the court,” he said. “We are the leg­isla­tive branch of our checks-and­bal­ances gov­ern­ment.”

But pro-choice groups fired back, say­ing the Gra­ham leg­is­la­tion is un­con­sti­tu­tional and the lat­est chap­ter in the “war on women.”

“Make no mis­take, this leg­is­la­tion is be­ing pro­posed as a next step by those who aim to over­turn Roe v. Wade. It is bla­tantly un­con­sti­tu­tional, ban­ning abor­tion be­fore vi­a­bil­ity and vi­o­lat­ing women’s fun­da­men­tal right to make the very per­sonal de­ci­sion whether or not to con­tinue a preg­nancy,’ said An­drea Fried­man, di­rec­tor of re­pro­duc­tive health pro­grams at the Na­tional Part­ner­ship for Women and Fam­i­lies.

A sim­i­lar pro­posal passed the House in June by a vote of 228-196.

Se­nate Democrats said Thurs­day that the Gra­ham pro­posal smacks of pol­i­tics and that law­mak­ers should be fo­cused on poli­cies that put more peo­ple back to work and fos­ter eco­nomic growth.

“We are here to­day to make one thing abun­dantly clear, and that is that this ex­treme, un­con­sti­tu­tional abor­tion ban is an ab­so­lute non­starter,” Sen. Patty Mur­ray, Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat, said on the Se­nate floor. “It’s go­ing nowhere in the Se­nate and Repub­li­cans know it.”

Mr. Gra­ham agreed that the bill likely does not have the votes to pass the Se­nate — at least now.

He said he is con­fi­dent that a ro­bust de­bate on the is­sue will build mo­men­tum for pas­sage and con­vince law­mak­ers to join the fight, much like they did in pre­vi­ous con­gres­sional bat­tles over the Par­tial-Birth Abor­tion Ban Act and Un­born Vic­tims of Vi­o­lence Act.

Mr. Gra­ham also said he is not in­tro­duc­ing the pro­posal be­cause he is fac­ing a pri­mary chal­lenge in the 2014 elec­tion.

“I came into the po­lit­i­cal arena pro-life and I will leave pro-life,” Mr. Gra­ham said, adding that vot­ers in South Carolina will de­cide whether he serves another term. “Did I wake up be­cause I have a pri­mary and say ‘Hey, let’s be pro-life?’ No.”

He said South Carolina vot­ers will likely re­spond to the bill in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to the rest of the na­tion. “When they un­der­stand what I am try­ing to do, they will say, ‘Yeah, that makes sense,’” he said. “Will it wipe away all the other crit­i­cisms? No.”

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