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Lindsey Graham says Donald Trump is making ‘a mistake’ on abortion, vows to push forward with nationwide restrictions


WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham sparred with Donald Trump on Monday after the former president attacked the South Carolina Republican for pushing his bill to outlaw abortion across the U.S. after 15 weeks of pregnancy. While Trump said the issue should be left to states, Graham vowed to keep pressing for federal limits.

“I think we should draw a line,” Graham told reporters. “We know that the Dobbs decision did not say that there’s no federal role. There are three laws on the books at the federal level. So the idea that Dobbs prevents the federal government from acting, I think, is an error. The idea of the Republican Party abandoning the opposition to late-term abortion, I think, would be a mistake, because most Americans oppose late-term abortion.”

“For the pro-life movement, it’s about the child, not geography. So if you turning the pro-life movement into a geographical movement, I think you’re making a mistake,” he added. “A child at 15 weeks sucks his thumb, feels pain in California and New York as much as South Carolina.”

Graham’s comments came after Trump released a video statement earlier Monday boasting about the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade while also saying the issue should be left to states. It was a reversal after Trump had previously endorsed federal restrictions, and the blowback that came immediately from abortion foes indicated how divided the GOP is on how to manage the thorny politics of the issue. Trump, notably, didn’t rule out signing federal limits if Congress were to pass them.

“We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America, a prominent anti-abortion advocacy group. She added, “Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. If successful, they will wipe out states’ rights.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has clashed with his former running mate since leaving office, said Trump’s statement was “a slap in the face to the millions of pro-life Americans who voted for him in 2016 and 2020.”

Graham, who has introduced bills to ban abortion after 20 weeks and, more recently, 15 weeks, said he disagrees. Then Trump attacked him on social media, suggesting that abortion is now a political loser for the GOP and “people like Lindsey Graham, that are unrelenting, are handing Democrats their dream of the House, Senate, and perhaps even the Presidency.”

Asked about that, Graham again disagreed with Trump.

“I support him. I feel comfortable telling anybody what I believe,” he said, arguing that “what’s popular among the American people” is some restrictions on abortion after a certain stage of pregnancy. “What I’m trying to do is, OK, post-Dobbs, should we be? Let’s leave it up to the states, I agree with that — up to a point. And I’m trying to get the party to focus on where the American people are. In the birthing process itself, people begin to want limits.”

The clash pits the 2024 Republican nominee against a staunch ally over an issue with explosive political ramifications. President Joe Biden and Democrats are tapping into national outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision by five GOP-appointed justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, while Republicans are struggling to navigate a shifting political environment after achieving their decades-long goal.

Graham said Republicans should continue to hit Democrats as the true extremists on the issue of abortion: “Republicans should run on the idea that Democrats, if they had their way, there would be no limits on abortion anywhere, anytime. And the law of the land would be abortion on demand up until the moment of birth. That’s a very extreme, unpopular position.”

The dispute is more notable considering that Trump, as president championed Graham’s 20-week abortion ban in 2018 and criticized the Senate for failing to pass it. Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly for it at the time. Asked if Trump was being hypocritical for opposing it now that the Supreme Court has permitted it, Graham replied, “I’ll let you ask him about that.”

Graham, who has since modified his bill to a 15-week ban, didn’t say when or whether he would reintroduce the legislation.

“We’ll talk about that,” he said. “We’ll see how that all goes.”

Notably, Trump did not say whether he would sign or veto a federal abortion limit if that were to come across his desk. Graham said Trump was “a great pro-life president” and added that he hopes that Trump will revert to his support for limits if he wins.

“Hope so,” he said.


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