The Dispatch

Senate Republicans propose national ban on abortions after 15 weeks

September 13, 2022 Catholic News Agency 8
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during news conference to announce a new bill on abortion restrictions on Capitol Hill Sept. 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Graham’s proposal would enact a national ban on abortions after the 15-week mark. Also pictured, at left, is President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Marjorie Dannenfelser. / Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 13, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.

The Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act is an updated version of Graham’s previous 20-week federal ban.

Speaking at a press conference alongside members of several national pro-life groups Sept. 13, Graham said the legislation was designed to “get America in a position at the federal level that’s fairly consistent with the rest of the world.”

Forty-seven out of 50 European countries have bans on abortions before 15 weeks. France, for example, bans abortions beginning at 12 weeks.

“This act provides the bare minimum protections for vulnerable unborn children,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said at the conference. Mancini added that the United States ranks with North Korea and China in allowing “gruesome, late-term elective abortion[s].”

15-week ban aligns with science of fetal pain

The bill’s rationale rests on the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus that unborn children feel pain by 15 weeks’ gestation. 

“Pain receptors … begin forming at 7 weeks gestational age,” the bill’s text reads. 

The bill cites the fact that anesthesia is used in medical procedures performed on unborn children in the womb to prevent suffering from pain. 

The bill would impose criminal penalties on abortionists who commit abortions on unborn children 15 weeks or older.

It also forbids the prosecution of women who obtain these abortions and allows them to pursue civil action against abortionists in violation of the bill.

Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, leader of the House Pro-Life Caucus and a Catholic, introduced an identical House version of the bill this afternoon, for which he was joined by more than 80 members of Congress.

“Every day, a whole segment of human beings is being subjected to painful — and deadly — procedures. This unconscionable human-rights abuse must stop,” Smith said in a statement.

Bill would allow most abortions to continue

Graham’s bill is supported by a variety of pro-life groups, including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, March for Life, and Urban Cure.

It is being messaged as a counter to Senate Democrats’ Women’s Health and Protection Act — reintroduced after Roe v. Wade was overturned this year — which would legalize abortion on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy.

“Democrats’ pro-abortion extremism flies in the face of American public opinion, which strongly supports compassionate limits on abortion like those proposed today by Sen. Graham and Rep. Smith,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Graham’s bill may not garner equal support from all pro-life organizations.

A 15-week ban has been “long denounced by many in the antiabortion movement because it would allow the vast majority of abortions to continue,” the Post wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 92% of abortions occur before 15 weeks’ gestation and around 6% of abortions occur at or after 15 weeks.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Mancini said at the press conference. “At the March for Life, we work for a day when abortion is unthinkable.”

White House, Democrats condemn bill

Graham’s bill faced immediate backlash from pro-abortion activists and prominent Democrats, who are denouncing the move as a reversal from states’ rights.

“‘Let the states decide’ was always a lie,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, tweeted. “They want to ban abortion in every state, in every community.”

At the press conference, Graham said that “it is left up to the elected officials in America to define the issue.”

“States have the ability to do it at the state level, and we have the ability in Washington to speak on this issue if we choose. I have chosen to speak,” he said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement condemning the bill on Tuesday.

“Today, Senator Graham introduced a national ban on abortion which would strip away women’s rights in all 50 states,” Jean-Pierre said. “This bill is wildly out of step with what Americans believe.”

The ban is unlikely to advance, with a Democrat-controlled Congress and the White House held by President Joe Biden, who is on record as one of the most pro-abortion presidents in history.