Ok, so it was inadvertent.
Graham–as most readers of this blog undoubtedly know–has blown the cover off the “states’ rights” arguments in Dobbs–and even the state’s rights “musing” in Clarence Thomases horrific concurrence. The Court’s argument is that certain fundamental rights previously protected nationally really aren’t so fundamental, and ought to be decided by state legislatures that are “closer to the people.”
That argument was never particularly persuasive, since it has a lot in common with the argument that human freedom from bondage isn’t a fundamental right, so whether or not slavery should be allowed would be best decided at the state level. (It also overlooks the widespread gerrymandering that has resulted in multiple state legislatures that don’t remotely reflect the wishes of their constituents.)
With abortion access already expected to be a major issue in November’s midterm elections, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham supercharged the debate over reproductive rights by introducing a bill that would ban most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
“I have chosen to craft legislation that I think is eminently reasonable in the eyes of the world,” the South Carolina senator said. “If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote,” he vowed, speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference where he was flanked by some of the nation’s most prominent anti-abortion activists, including Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Many of those activists would like an outright ban on all abortions.
“This bill, frankly, doesn’t go far enough for many people,” said Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America. “But it is a consensus piece of legislation.”
Well, so much for the rights of states that want to protect a woman’s right to choose.
I don’t know what Graham thought he was doing with this legislative turd–perhaps he thought a national law that waited to criminalize abortion until 15 weeks would be so generous that it would appeal to people who are conflicted about outright bans. Perhaps, as some commentators have suggested, he thought the promise of a nation-wide ban would motivate the GOP’s reliable anti-choice base.
What Graham has really done is strip away the rhetorical excuses in order to display another sort of “choice”– the stark choice voters will face on this issue in a few short weeks. If the GOP takes Congress, a national ban on abortion becomes very possible–no matter what Mitch McConnell says about Senators’ “preference to leave this matter to the states.” Urged on by its rabid base, the Republican Party will be free to ignore the rights of Blue and Purple states and the women who live in them. (Former vice president Mike Pence emphasized that point in an interview with Real Clear Politics, saying a national abortion ban and individual state restrictions “is profoundly more important than any short-term politics.”)
Senator Schumer’s response was a statement of the obvious.
“For the hard hard right this has never been about states’ rights. This has never been about letting Texas choose its own path while California takes another. No, for MAGA Republicans, this has always been about making abortion illegal everywhere,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
For the naive pundits who predicted that over-ruling Roe would calm the political waters, Graham’s response to critics should provide a wake-up call:
Graham dismissed political concerns. “There’s a narrative forming in America that the Republican Party and the pro-life movement is on the run,” he said on Tuesday. “No, no, no, no. We’re going nowhere.”
Whatever the legal criticisms of the reasoning in Roe v. Wade, the decision established a bright line between decisions government can legitimately make, and those that must be left to individuals in a truly free society. That principle is what is currently under attack–and as I have repeatedly insisted, the consequences of getting it wrong will extend far beyond abortion.
In the GOP’s zeal to prevent women from exercising the same degree of individual autonomy they gladly grant to White Christian males, they have presented us with an unambiguous choice. Graham’s bill has the virtue of making that choice crystal clear.
A vote for any Republican congressional or Senate candidate in November is a vote for federal government control over our most intimate, personal decisions, including whether and when to procreate, who we can be “intimate” with, and who we can marry…
Whether you agree or disagree with the decisions government imposes is ultimately irrelevant. The issue is–and. must be–who gets to decide?