For Republicans running for office in red states, being perceived as unduly reasonable is a real problem. This is a serious concern for Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is being lambasted in the conservative press for his role as a non-nutter during the debt-ceiling showdown. He's been called a "chicken-hearted RINO", "lily-livered" and even a "liberal." Graham's approval rating is at 45 percent with South Carolina voters, down from 72 percent in February. He's still ahead of his Republican primary challengers, but if he keeps getting hammered like this by conservatives, he could be in real danger in 2014.
Is it any surprise, then, that Graham spent his Sunday morning declaring his intention to introduce a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide? Being "tough" on abortion is an easy way for politicians to prove that they ain't no RINOs to voters who increasingly judge their candidates on perceived purity and fealty to the hard-right cause. As Irin Carmon revealed in her MSNBC report on abortion access in Oklahoma, the war on women really is a race to the bottom, with politicians crawling over one another to throw more and more obstacles in front of women seeking not just abortion but contraception. Communicating with voters about complex issues like your views on the debt ceiling is difficult. Proposing an abortion ban seems simple by comparison.
Seems being the operative word here. Back in August, Planned Parenthood and Hart Research Associates released a poll showing that once you start explaining some of the most common reasons women get later abortions, people actually support legal abortion after 20 weeks. This finding was particularly telling:
Sixty-one percent (61%) of all voters say abortions should be legal after 20 weeks if a woman's doctor determines that the fetus is not yet viable and the woman and her family determine that her health and personal circumstances are such that she should not continue her pregnancy.
Graham would have you believe that a 20 week fetus, while not viable by any stretch, should be rounded up because, "At 20 weeks, you feel pain." This is, bluntly put, a lie. There's not only no evidence that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks, but substantial evidence that pain is impossible at that level of development. Of course, as the political environment has changed in recent years, Graham has become increasingly comfortable embracing the conservative rejection of scientific fact. He used to be bullish on the subject of climate change, but backed off in 2010, muttering about how climate change reported by scientists is "oversold" and "alarmist." (It's not.)
And now he's bullish on abortion bans. This bill is purely for show, and President Obama has zero reason not to veto it with haste if it actually gets to him. Plus, Harry Reid has every incentive to kill this bill before it gets to the Senate floor, because it's just a pain to explain to voters that they really are against it.