Tuesday, December 6, 2022
Dec. 6, 2022

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Allen: Graham’s abortion bill is not extreme but is ill-timed


South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a federal proposal recently to place reasonable limits on abortion.

The bill would set a national 15-week limit on the practice, includes exceptions for cases of rape and incest and to protect the life of the mother. It would allow state limits on abortion (such as Texas’ fetal-heartbeat law and criminal ban on most abortions) to stand.

There should be nothing controversial about Graham’s legislation. Fifteen weeks is well into the second trimester, when (to the “clump of cells” crowd) the unborn baby is about the size of a pear.

And as even some honest abortion supporters discovered prior to the landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, an early second trimester ban would align the U.S. with abortion laws throughout most of Europe. It would be even a bit more permissive in some cases.

Still, the proposal was met with predictable consternation among Democrats. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York was quick to call it “extreme.”

If he wants to talk about extreme policy, Jeffries need look no further than his own party’s attempt to enshrine abortion on-demand — and up until birth — into national law. Polling shows that more than 70 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester.

If there is anything truly at issue about Graham’s bill, it is the timing — in the tenuous wake of the Dobbs ruling and less than two months before crucial midterm elections. That’s why Graham, often viewed as a centrist among conservatives, has met with resistance from some more conservative members of his own party.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn said: “I would keep an open mind on this, but my preference would be for those decisions to be made on a state-by-state basis.”

That is, of course, what many pro-lifers have argued for decades.

It’s also ultimately what the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for in Dobbs — that because there is, in fact, no right to an abortion in the Constitution, states must be left to determine under what circumstances the procedure may occur.

Working to restrict abortions at the state level is not intellectually inconsistent with a national ban.

And while there are thoughtful, Constitution-based arguments made by pro-life conservatives for why abortion policies are a decision for the states, there are better arguments for why the Constitution demands protections for the unborn. But back to Graham’s bill and the problem with its timing.

With the midterms only weeks away, the Democratic Party desperate to distract from inflation and an illegal immigration problem that has reached crisis levels, is doubling down on the one issue that might generate some enthusiasm among its voters: abortion.

The party’s position on abortion — available in some circumstances until birth — is outside of the mainstream. But polling has also shown an increase in support for legal abortion since the Dobbs decision was issued.

That is in part because the pro-life movement has been fighting a truculent national media. But it is also because after such a massive victory, some ardent abortion opponents have forgotten that thoughtful persuasion and patience, coupled with a robust and well-publicized effort to assist women in crisis pregnancies, is the way to win the argument.

It’s an approach that Ramesh Ponnuru called “incrementalism” in a recent Bloomberg opinion piece — and he’s right.

In Graham’s defense, a 15-week abortion ban (with exceptions) could be considered incremental. It’s close to what many Americans said they were comfortable with prior to Dobbs. But America is on a new footing now, and Americans may not be ready yet. Forcing the issue now could make it harder for them to get there.