By Emma Reilly
With midterm elections fast approaching, United States politicians are focused on making it known where they stand on contentious topics. A number of hot-button issues sparked conversation this election cycle, namely access to and restrictions limiting abortions.
As politicians make their views known, however, voters must keep in mind whether or not those views take into consideration the stance of the nation as a whole.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), the landmark court case which set a precedent for the constitutional right to an abortion. The 7-2 Roe ruling protected this right for nearly 50 years.
“The decision [to overturn Roe] may well mean too that…the abortion question will become a focal point in the upcoming fall elections and in the fall thereafter,” NPR’s Nina Totenberg and Sarah McCammon said in June.
Their prediction has proved true as the abortion debate grows increasingly discordant.
According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, “the partisan divide in abortion opinions remains wide.”
The study also found that 62% of Americans disagreed with the court’s decision to overturn Roe, affirming that abortion “should be legal in all or most cases.”
Yet, when it comes to the abortion question, media attention is often focused on radical opinions that fail to reflect this popular sentiment.
A clear example is the nationwide abortion ban Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) proposed in a news conference on Sept. 13. The ban Graham supports would make abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy illegal in all 50 states.
According to The New York Times, “[Graham’s] bill contains narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and life-threatening pregnancies, but not for severe fetal anomalies or pregnancies that are otherwise nonviable.”
Graham’s proposal is incongruous with many Americans’ stance on abortion and the senator’s reasoning for why the ban is necessary is ill-conceived.
“Abortion is not banned in America. It is left up to elected officials in America to define the issue,” Graham said as reported by The Washington Post. “States have the ability to do [so] at the state level, and we have the ability in Washington to speak on this issueif we choose. I have chosen to speak.”
Graham’s focus on choice is steeped with dark irony, considering the fact that the legislation he is interested in implementing will strip pregnant people of their ability to make choices about their bodies.
Additionally, Graham’s statement reflects a shift away from his former stance on abortion, which was centered around states’ rights, according to The Washington Post.
“Graham previously took a different view…now he favors national legislation,” The Washington Post’s Adela Suliman said.
When Roewas still in place, it would have been deemed unconstitutional to ban abortion in such a sweeping manner as Graham suggests. Anti-abortion legislation, therefore, was largely enacted on the state level.
In the aftermath of Roe being overturned, only 16 states have legislation in place that protects abortion access, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Now that most states restrict abortion, politicians like Graham, who previously viewed abortion access as up to each state’s discretion, have changed tact.
Graham’s inability to make up his mind when it comes to how abortion should be addressed legislatively is not the only shortcoming his proposed nationwide abortion ban reveals.
“The world pretty much has spoken on this issue,” Graham said as reported by The New York Times. “The developed world has said at [15 weeks] into the pregnancy the child feels pain, and we’re saying we’re going to join the rest of the world.”
Graham’s statement is concerningly uninformed.
“It ignores the fact that [in Europe], abortion is state-subsidized and easily accessible early in pregnancy, so women aren’t pushed into later terminations as they struggle to raise money. More significantly, the restrictions on later abortions have broad exceptions,” The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg said.
Graham’s shifting perspective and factually questionable justifications are just one example of why, this November, it is necessary for voters to think critically about how and why politicians are taking particular stances on issues like abortion.
Maryland residents can register to vote here or look up their polling place here ahead of the election on Nov. 8. Washington College students who do not live in Maryland and will be unable to make it home to vote can arrange for their ballot to arrive by mail on their state’s respective voter registration site.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Ahead of the midterm elections, Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed a bill that would make abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy.