Lindsey Graham’s Abortion Ban Is So Cruel It’s Unbelievable.
At the end of Senator Lindsey Graham’s news conference on Tuesday, where he proposed a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a woman named Ashbey Beasley stood up and asked him a question that was inspired by her own painful loss.
“What would you tell someone like me who found out at 16 weeks that their son had a defect that made him unable to live?” she asked. Beasley decided against having an abortion, so she gave birth to her son at 28 weeks. “He lived for eight days when he was born,” she said. “He bled from every hole in his body, but we were allowed to make that choice for him. You’d be taking away that option from those women. “What would you tell a person like me?”
Graham didn’t have a good answer. His bill makes only a few narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and life-threatening pregnancies. It doesn’t make any exceptions for severe fetal abnormalities or pregnancies that can’t be carried to term for any other reason. So, when someone told him to think about the effects of his idea, he fell back on a double-talking anti-abortion talking point about how abortion laws are different around the world.
“The world has pretty much said what it thinks about this,” Graham said. “The developed world says that at this point in the pregnancy, the baby feels pain, and we say that we’ll join them and not be like Iran.”
Graham was using a common argument among people who are against abortion: that American abortion laws are unusually lax, and that banning abortions at 12 or 15 weeks would make us more like Europe. In France and Spain, for example, abortions can be done for any reason up to 14 weeks after conception. In Germany, abortions can be done up to 12 weeks after conception. Graham said, “If we passed my bill, our bill, we would be in line with most of the rest of the world.” “I think that from 12 to 15 weeks, abortion is illegal in 47 of the 50 European countries.”
This is at best a very selective look at how abortion laws work in Europe. It doesn’t take into account the fact that, on most of the continent, abortions are paid for by the government and are easy to get early in a pregnancy, so women aren’t forced to have them later because they can’t afford them. More importantly, there are a lot of ways around the rules about abortions after 24 weeks.
Take Germany, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe. A Nazi-era ban on advertising abortion was still in place until this summer. Abortion is still technically illegal, but it is no longer a crime during the first three months of pregnancy. After that, a woman can have an abortion to protect her physical or mental health, taking her “present and future circumstances” into account. Public money pays for abortions for women with low incomes.
Almost anywhere in Europe, a woman in Ashbey Beasley’s terrible situation would be able to end her pregnancy. In fact, Graham’s idea isn’t like much else in the developed world. Even in Iran, which Graham mentioned in a way that made no sense, abortion is mostly illegal, but women can ask a panel for an abortion if the fetus is severely disabled.
Why did Graham leave this exception out of his proposed ban on abortion, which almost all Americans would almost certainly support? There are two possibilities, neither of which rules out the other. Either he was trying to please the anti-abortion activists who sent a letter to Congress on Monday demanding that the federal government do something about states with lax abortion laws, or he hasn’t given pregnancy much thought.
Most people who have been through a pregnancy or watched a close friend or family member go through one know that there are certain milestones that make you hold your breath. At 10 weeks, you can get a blood test that checks for some genetic disorders that can happen before birth, but it can only tell you how likely it is that you will get one. “Most of the time, we make diagnoses about things like fetal abnormalities and genetic abnormalities between 15 and 20 weeks, when we can do an amniocentesis,” said Dr. Kristyn Brandi, a New Jersey abortion provider and board chair for Physicians for Reproductive Health.
Then, at 20 weeks, pregnant women usually get an anatomy scan, which checks for things like anencephaly, a condition in which a fetus’s brain and skull don’t grow.
Graham would tell every woman who gets bad news from an amnio or an anatomy scan that she has to carry the pregnancy to term unless she could prove that it would kill her. Whether this was done accidentally or on purpose, it is almost impossible to understand how cruel it is.
Graham’s bill is good for Democrats from a political point of view. He seems to have been trying to change the focus of the abortion debate to later abortions, where Republicans think they can paint their opponents as extremists. Instead, he has focused on how cruel Republicans are to abortion patients who are likely to get the most sympathy from the public.
Democrats shouldn’t be happy, though. When they have full power, Republicans have shown that they are willing to put in place such harsh rules. Recently, Kailee Lingo DeSpain, who said she used to be “the perfect pro-life Texan,” told CNN that she had to leave the state to get an abortion because her unborn child had problems with its heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and genes and “would either be stillborn or die within minutes of birth.” DeSpain asked, “How could you be so cruel as to pass a law that you know will hurt women and make babies born in pain?”
At the moment, Republicans don’t have the power to make everyone in the country follow such a system. Many of them also don’t want to talk about national bans. Some Republicans were mad at Graham for bringing up the issue. But Graham was probably right when he said, “I can promise you that if we take back the House and the Senate, our bill will be voted on.” So far, Republicans have done their best to meet the needs of the anti-abortion movement. We should pay attention when Graham tells us what they plan to do to us.