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Senator Lindsey Graham stood at a podium in the US Capitol and introduced legislation to impose a national ban on abortion. Graham’s ban, if passed, would outlaw abortion nationwide after fifteen weeks.
The ban would overrule any state laws that allow abortion beyond 15 weeks. The only exceptions would be in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Graham said he based the threshold of 15 weeks on the recent Dobbs decision. In addition, he also repeatedly stated “the science tells us that at fifteen weeks, the child feels pain.” He and the CEOs of pro-life organizations around him consistently called this a “common sense” piece of legislation.
Marjorie Dannefelser, the President of the Susan B. Anthony List said the bill should be “the instinct of a civilized society” because of the science behind it.
The issue, however, is that there is not consensus in the scientific community that a fetus consciously feels pain at 15 weeks.
Graham’s claims about science not rooted in fact
One recent study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggested fetuses may begin to feel pain at 12 weeks of gestational age. However, even that study makes clear that a fetus is not able to be conscious of pain until 20-24 weeks.
“Pain conjures up an inner state of consciousness relating to fear, concern, regret, necessary action and so on,” the study that likely spurred Graham’s bill states. “We do not propose that the fetus experiences that.”
The study goes on to refer to the sensation possibly experienced by a fetus in the first trimester as “inherent to a certain level of biological activity.” This biological activity “emerges at an unknown time often speculated to be after 12 weeks’ gestation.”
According to the National Institutes of Heath, the majority of the scientific community is settled on the conclusion that a fetus’s brain does not develop enough to feel and comprehend pain until weeks 23-25.
“What would you say to people like me?” Woman faced with devastating news about her pregnancy confronts Graham
As Senator Graham was wrapping up the press conference, one woman in the audience stood up with a powerful question.
“What would you say to somebody like me who found out at sixteen weeks that their son would likely not live?” she asked.
“We were allowed to make that choice for him. You would be robbing that choice from those women, what would you say to someone like me?”
“Well ma’am,” Graham responded, “there are 55,000 abortions after the 15 week period. I think we are resolved to get America back in line with the rest of the world.”
The text of Lindsey Graham’s bill has no exceptions for devastating instances like this. If passed, people who learn after fifteen weeks that a defect will likely cause their child to suffer and die shortly after birth would be forced to carry their fetus to term.
Anti-Abortion leaders claim bill to ban abortion is about ‘building national consensus’, while expressing desire for even stricter bans
At Tuesday’s press conference, Lindsey Graham and anti-abortion leaders said this national abortion ban is an attempt to “build consensus” nationwide.
“This is a consensus piece of legislation,” said Penny Nance, President & CEO of Concerned Women for America.
The legislation, however, would do nothing to protect abortion up to the fifteen week point.
In fact, several speakers eluded to a long term goal to implement a total ban on abortion in the years to come.
Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life, said her organization will “work toward the day when abortion is unthinkable.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United For Life, echoed those sentiments. “Americans are ready for a pro-life future,” she exclaimed. “I know that together we will fight and we will win in the continuing war for the heart and the soul of America.”
Marjorie Dannesfelser even went so far as to say “if you’re pro-America and you’re pro-Democracy”, then you must support this bill.
Across the country, governors and state legislatures are striking down abortion rights. Some far-right Republican legislators and candidates for office have even begun working toward legislation that will impose criminal charges on women who receive an abortion.
While many in the country are recognizing a need to protect abortion rights, Graham and other Republicans feel emboldened to restrict them. “There is a narrative that the Republican Party and the pro-life movement is on the run,” Graham said. “Oh, no, no, no. We’re going nowhere.”