Abortion ban legislation adds political challenge for GOP

CONCORD, NH (AP) — Don Bolduc didn’t have much time to celebrate winning the Republican Senate nomination in New Hampshire on Wednesday before he and other swing state GOP candidates were on the defensive.

A retired army brigadier conservative, Bolduc insisted during the Republican primary that he would “always fall short for a system that protects lives from start to finish.” But South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s decision to introduce legislation this week that would create a nationwide ban on abortion has created the prospect that a campaign talking point could become a reality.

As his attention now turns to November’s general election in a soft state that President Joe Biden has worn by more than 7 percentage points, Bolduc has quickly distanced himself from Graham’s measure.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he told Fox News, adding that abortion laws are best left to each state. “Women on both sides of the issue will have a stronger voice at the state level.”

With less than two months to go until the midterm elections, Bolduc’s pivot is a sign of the defiance dividing Republicans in some of the most competitive states as they navigate abortion politics. The party was already facing a potential backlash from voters upset by the June Supreme Court ruling invalidating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. But Graham’s legislation risked deepening the headwinds, undermining the GOP’s argument this summer that the future of abortion rights in the United States would be decided by individual states.

Graham’s bill would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s physical health. Congressional Republicans have introduced similar legislation in the past, and like those efforts, the measure is unlikely to become law.

But Democrats were quick to flag the measure to warn that handing control of Congress to Republicans could lead to a broader erosion of rights.

“In the greatest democracy in the world, Don Bolduc will make women second-class citizens,” New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats, said at a press conference quickly. organized on Wednesday. “National Republicans, from Mike Pence to Senate and House leaders, have waited years for the opportunity to ban abortion nationwide. If Don Buldoc is in the Senate, they would have a reliable vote to make exactly that.

The legislation has exposed deep frustration among Republican candidates and strategists who have found no answers on abortion policy since the Supreme Court ruling. There were fears the measure would distract from Biden’s vulnerabilities, including lingering inflation.

“It’s probably the right bill at the wrong time,” veteran Republican strategist Chris Wilson said.

Graham’s plan, he said, “gives the Dems the chance to talk more about abortion. And right now, Republicans are losing when they talk about abortion.

Conservative commentator Charlie Kirk called Graham’s proposal “election interference”.

“I would like a total ban on abortion – 15 weeks is not enough,” Kirk said. “But neither am I stupid; 25 days away from the ballots, Democrats cheer, thank you Lindsey Graham.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is one seat shy of majority control, notably refused to pass Graham’s legislation.

“I think every Republican senator who is in these hard-fought races this year has an answer as to how they feel about the issue,” McConnell said Tuesday. He said most GOP senators prefer the issue to be handled by the states rather than at the federal level. “So I leave it to our candidates who are fully capable of handling this question to determine for them what their answer is.”

Abortion would have been a dominant issue this fall whether or not Graham lifted his national abortion ban. A majority of Americans say Congress should pass legislation guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide, according to a July AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll that found more than half said that they felt at least somewhat “sad” or “angry” about the Supreme. Court decision.

Democrats have invested tens of millions of dollars in TV ads focused on abortion rights. Women registered to vote in greater numbers than men across the country. And several states that have not yet completely banned abortion are imposing new restrictions.

The Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority overturned Roe in late June, triggering abortion bans in at least 13 states, many of which do not have exceptions for rape, incest and maternal health. In Indiana, a new Republican-backed abortion ban goes into effect Thursday. The West Virginia legislature on Tuesday approved a sweeping abortion ban with a few exceptions.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Liberty University convocation on Wednesday, celebrated the developments.

“We are only at the end of the beginning and the battle for life continues,” said Pence, who is eyeing a presidential election in 2024. “We must not rest and we must not give in until we have not restored the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state of the nation.”

Meanwhile, Republican candidates for the swing state Senate offered inconsistent and contradictory messages.

In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters called abortion “evil” in his GOP primary, calling for a federal personhood law that would give fetuses the same rights as people after birth. He has more recently toned down his rhetoric, focusing on restricting late-term abortions while allowing states to impose stricter limits.

After winning the Republican nomination, Masters removed references to his support for a personality law from his campaign website and dropped language describing himself as “100% pro-life.” He says he supports an Arizona law banning abortion after 15 weeks, which he called a “reasonable solution.”

“Of course I support Lindsey Graham’s 15-week bill, and I hope it passes,” Masters said this week. “If not, I suggest and will introduce a standalone bill for the third quarter. Surely we can all agree that in America we should not tolerate late abortion like China and North Korea do.

In another battleground state, Republican Senate candidate from Georgia Herschel Walker issued a statement supporting Graham’s proposal, having previously said in a GOP primary that he would support a ban on abortion without exception.

“I am a proud pro-life Christian and will always stand up for our unborn children,” Walker said of Graham’s proposal this week. “I think the matter should be decided at the state level, but I would support this policy.”

It was quite the opposite in Colorado, where Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea said “a Republican ban is as reckless and tone-deaf as the hostility of Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer to consider any compromise on late abortion, parental notification or conscience”. protections for religious hospitals.

O’Dea said Congress should pass a bill “protecting a woman’s right to choice early in pregnancy” and “reasonable limits on late, non-medically necessary abortion.”

In Nevada, Republican candidate Adam Laxalt said he would oppose a nationwide ban, but his campaign declined to offer a specific position on Graham’s proposal when asked. It was similar in Pennsylvania, where Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz suggested he would oppose the federal ban, but did not say so explicitly.

“As a senator, he would like to ensure that the federal government does not interfere with state decisions on the subject,” Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick said.

And in Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who faces a tough re-election bid, has already co-sponsored six national proposals for a 20-week abortion ban. But after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Johnson said he supported that decision and left the decision on abortions to the states.

The Republican senator, usually an ally of Graham, appeared to stick to that position on Tuesday without taking a hard line on Graham’s bill. He told CNN that abortion should be decided by “we the people” in all 50 states.

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People reported from New York. AP writers Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; JJ Cooper in Phoenix; Jill Colvin in New York; Bill Barrow in Atlanta; and Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that many prohibitions in at least 13 states do not provide exceptions for rape, incest, and mother’s health, not mother’s life.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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