Fox News host Shannon Bream pressed Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, on Sunday about whether the GOP’s message on abortion was “costing the Republican Party.”
Anti-abortion advocates celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which last June overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that previously guaranteed reproductive rights to women across the United States, as a major victory. The ruling allowed states to make their own laws regarding the medical procedure, with many Republican-led states quickly moving to either ban or place significant restrictions on abortion in the months following the ruling.
However, some Republicans are now raising concerns that their stance on abortion may become unpopular among swing voters following a string of underperformances and defeats. During the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans lost ground in the Senate, only narrowly won control of the House of Representatives, and lost key gubernatorial races despite hopes that President Joe Biden’s unpopularity would deliver a “red wave.”
Republicans were dealt with their latest blow last week when Janet Protasiewicz, who supports abortion-rights, defeated conservative Daniel Kelly by 10 percentage points in swing-state Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election. Abortion emerged as a key issue in the race, and Kelly’s loss sparked concerns about the electoral viability of abortion bans.
Bream questioned Graham about these concerns on Fox News Sundays.
“[Abortion] is an issue that’s been a struggle for Republicans post-Dobbsthat ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. You’re very passionate about this, but critics including conservatives say it’s costing the Republican Party,” Bream said.
The Fox News host then cited a Wall StreetJournal opinion piece published Thursday by conservative columnist Kimberley Strassel, who wrote that Republican voters “need to decide if they want GOP majorities that will enact common-sense protections, or Democratic takeovers that will open the abortion floodgates.”
“Isn’t that what happened this week in Wisconsin?” Bream asked.
Graham defended his own position on abortion-rights, saying that a bill limiting the medical procedure he introduced last year would leave the US with similar restrictions to those of most European countries.
“I’m very pro-life, and I think being pro-life is a winning message,” the Republican senator said. “I oppose late-term abortions. I have a bill that sets a minimum national standard of 15 weeks. Fifty out of the 53 European nations ban abortion at 15 weeks. I have an exception for rape, incest and life of the mother.”
Graham noted that Wisconsin currently has a 1849 statute banning the procedure in the state. Democrats are seeking to repeal this law, which became a major point of contention during the judicial election. He said Wisconsin Republicans did not propose an “alternative” to the wide-reaching abortion ban and that “if you’re pro-life, you need to explain what that means.”
In Graham’s case, which includes exceptions for rape and incest victims, as well as for cases in which the life of the mother is at risk, he said.
“We can reasonably win this issue at the ballot box if we show up with positions. If we have our head in the sand, we’re going to lose,” the South Carolina senator added.
Republicans Deal With Post-Dobbs Electoral Challenges
As Republicans grapple with the issue of abortion, judges from Texas and Washington on Friday issued dueling rulings about mifepristone, the most commonly used abortion pill in the US. The rulings again brought abortion-rights to the forefront of political discourse.
Polls following the overturning of Roe v. Wade have indicated support for abortion-rights among many Americans. A February poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Only 7 percent said it should be illegal in most or all cases.
After a disappointing midterm election last year, former President Donald Trump said Republicans need to account for exceptions of rape, incest, and the life of the mother in their abortion policies.
“Now, I think a lot of Republicans didn’t handle the abortion question properly,” he said. “I think if you don’t have the three exceptions, it’s almost impossible in most parts of the country to win.”
Newsweek reached out to Senator Graham’s office for comment via email.