“ ‘It’s a freedom issue but it’s also a kitchen table issue for America’s working families.’ ”
— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday criticized what she called “the extreme MAGA Republicans” who have unveiled a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks, saying it would directly impact working Americans.
“This is a democracy issue, it’s a freedom issue but it’s also a kitchen table issue for America’s working families,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said during her weekly press conference. “It comes right to the heart of decision-making in the family.”
Under the proposal, introduced in the Senate on Tuesday by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and in the House by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, doctors who perform abortions after 15 weeks could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to five years. The bills make exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk. The bills have two co-sponsors in the Senate and 84 co-sponsors in the House — all Republicans.
Graham said in a statement that his legislation would “put the United States abortion policy in line with other developed nations such as France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, and other European nations.” He sharply criticized Democrats’ abortion proposals, arguing that his “legislation is a responsible alternative as we provide exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and life and physical health of the mother.”
Graham has previously introduced similar legislation. A previous iteration introduced last year by him and Smith would have criminalized doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks — that proposal gained 218 Republican co-sponsors in total.
“A majority of the Republicans in the House are co-sponsors of legislation for a national, a nationwide abortion ban. It’s important to note that and we want to make sure the public is aware of it,” Pelosi said.
She noted that no Republican representative voted to codify Roe v. Wade, only three voted in favor of legislation that would protect the right to travel across state lines for an abortion, and emphasized the lack of GOP support the House’s Right to Contraception Act received. “That means over 200 of them do not support a woman’s right to contraception,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi also criticized Graham for introducing the bill after telling CNN in August that “states should decide the issue of abortion.”
Democrats nationwide have tried to use abortion as a wedge issue since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, and some expressed optimism that Graham’s bill will fuel pro-abortion rights voters to the polls in November.
“With this bill my Republican colleagues have shown their true colors,” New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that “now our mission as Americans and as voters is crystal clear.”
“We will do whatever it takes to elect more pro-choice candidates,” she said. “And when we expand our majority we will pass legislation guaranteeing the right to bodily autonomy and enshrining the right to reproductive freedom into federal law.”
Graham’s move did not receive the warmest reception from some of his Republican colleagues who said that the focus ahead of midterms should be more on the economy, inflation and related issues rather than abortion.
“I, for one, want to focus on the inflation numbers that came out [Tuesday], the imminent potential strike with [freight] railway workers. That’s what people are talking about,” North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis said. Similarly, POLITICO reported that West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said she doesn’t think “there’s an appetite for a national platform here.”
“My state, today, is working on this,” Capito said. “I’m not sure what he’s thinking here. But I don’t think there will be a rallying around that concept.”
Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Texas Senator John Cornyn appeared to distance themselves from the legislation.
“I think most of the members of my conference prefer this be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell told reporters.
Cornyn noted that there is “a split of opinion in terms of whether abortion law should be decided by the states” but that his “preference would be for those decisions to be made on a state-by-state basis.”
In the immediate aftermath of the bill being introduced, Democratic candidates in close races quickly cast their opponents as anti-abortion. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s campaign called her Republican challenger “an automatic vote” for a national abortion ban, Rep. Val Demings released an ad hitting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for his views on abortion and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes criticized Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for sponsoring Graham’s previous bill, saying in a statement that Johnson’s “willingness to compromise women’s freedoms and put their lives at risk is disqualifying.”
On Tuesday, Johnson told ABC News that “at this point in time, nothing is going to pass Congress.” “It’s got to be decided in the states, I think that is the appropriate place for this to be decided,” he said.
Asked about the criticism Graham has faced from members within his party, Pelosi said, “I think what you’re seeing there is a conflict within the Republican party.”
“There are those in the party that think life begins at the candlelight dinner the night before and these people are in defiance of that,” Pelosi said of the criticism Graham has faced. “…But [Democrats] are united in our support for women’s right to choose.”