WASHINGTON, D.C., January 9, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told LifeSiteNews.com that, if Americans want to help support a national ban on abortions for babies who can feel pain, they should try to enact similar laws in their home states.
Passing pro-life laws at the state level is important to generate support for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Graham told LifeSiteNews exclusively on Wednesday. The bill, introduced in the House by Congressman Trent Franks, would ban most abortions after 20 weeks' gestation on the grouds that a baby at that stage of development is capable of feeling pain.
Graham, who is facing a tough primary fight from a conservative challener, introduced the legislation on November 7, five months after it passed the House. But he has said for months that his bill will not likely pass the Democrat-controlled Senate this year. Instead, he said his goal is to get a vote in the Senate in 2014, in order to build momentum for future Congresses. At a press conference introducing the bill, he compared the effort to that which led to passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in 2003. That law was introduced in Congress 15 years before finally passing.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has 40 Republican cosponsors. No Democrats have signed on yet but, according to spokesperson Kevin Bishop, “Senator Graham is hopeful this bill will be bipartisan.”
“He has always believed protecting the life of an unborn child should not be a partisan issue,” Bishop told LifeSiteNews.com in an e-mail.
When asked by LifeSiteNews.com for his strategy if no Democrats signed on to the bill, Graham said pro-life activists should “have a 2014 strategy” at the state level. Activists “should introduce this legislation in every state possible, because the debate at the state resonates [with the] political context of that state,” he said.
As LifeSiteNews.com previously reported, state-based pro-life activists are putting pressure on six Democrats to cosponsor a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Several of those Democrats are facing tough re-election races in 2014.
One of those Senators is Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Graham noted that Arkansas passed a late-term abortion ban, and said his “strategy is to create pressure at a state level to my Democratic colleagues who come from purple or red states and respond to what's going on in your state.”
The Arkansas version of the bill was passed over Governor Mike Beebe's veto in February 2013. A stricter measure – banning most abortions after 12 weeks' gestation – was also passed over Beebe's veto in March 2013, but an injunction was placed on that law several months later.
Graham also said action “at the federal government” would consist of Senators “taking the floor...later in the year and ask[ing] for consideration of this bill, and just keep bringing up the issue.”
“Given the behavior of [Democratic Majority Leader] Senator [Harry] Reid, we've got our work cut out for us,” he said.
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Graham stressed that it wasn't just grassroots pressure that would push his legislation forward. “A little bit of advertising would go a long way,” he said.
Graham's bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, with exceptions for life of the mother, rape, and incest. The exceptions were added by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, after a minor flap over comments made by Franks.
Most observers do not expect Senator Reid, D-NV, to bring the legislation up for a vote, despite Reid's claim last year that he would be “happy to take a look” at the Senate version of the House bill. Reid downplayed the isse on NBC's Meet the Press, saying "[w]e need to do something to help the American working class and stop worrying about fringe issues."
Last July, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed a majority of the American people supported restricting abortions after 20 weeks' gestation. The Washington Post's “The Fix” analyzed the poll and three others, pointing out that a majority of women supported the policy.