The lead Senate sponsor of anti-abortion legislation that was pulled from the House schedule late Wednesday said Thursday it should not move forward without changes to the rape provision.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was looking forward to a debate on abortion policy once the issues with the bill are resolved.
"This is going to be about wholesale abortions on demand in 20 weeks, five months into pregnancy, and it won't be about rape," Graham said. "Nobody's for rape."
The House moved forward and passed a bill Thursday against federal funding for abortion services, after pulling back from the floor a measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks. House Republican leaders have said the original bill is not dead, and Graham intends to bring it to the Senate floor once modifications are made.
"Somebody in the House put a provision in there, if you didn't report the rape to law enforcement, then it's not going to be considered a legitimate rape. Well, that's ridiculous," Graham told reporters. "I've been, you know, in criminal law all my life, and the vast majority of women who are raped don't report it, so we're not going to go down that road."
Graham has introduced the Senate companion to that legislation, and conceded he did not recognize there was a problem.
"We're going to fix it. I really, didn't really pick that up. Quite frankly, it passed the House, but they used some law enforcement definition," Graham said. "I'm a traditional Hyde amendment guy."
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement that she hoped Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would steer clear of the abortion debate, but that supporters of abortion rights were ready to fight if the time comes.
"If Majority Leader McConnell chooses to go down the partisan path we've seen from Republicans before on women's health, Democrats and women and men across the country will be ready to stand up and fight back," Murray said. "We’re not going anywhere, and that’s why bills that threaten women’s fundamental rights aren't either."
"I can't wait for the debate. I'm looking forward to the debate. I want to hear how we're a better country by aborting babies at 20 weeks," said Graham, who indicated that as he envisions it, his bill would come as part of a broader debate on related issues, in what could prove a real test of the willingness of senators to take difficult votes.
"I'm looking forward to debate, and I'm going to take the ... pro-choice centerpiece, the women's protection health act. We're going to bring it up. We're going to vote on that, too," Graham said.
That legislation, spearheaded by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., seeks to nullify restrictions on reproductive health services imposed by states.
"Despite the clear constitutional rights established more than four decades ago in this landmark decision, each year politicians across the country pass harmful restrictions in an effort to roll back a woman’s right to make the best health care decisions for herself and her family," Blumenthal said in a Facebook post. "If made law, the Women’s Health Protection Act would create federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and intrude upon personal decision-making."
As for the issue with unreported sexual assaults contained in the 20 week abortion ban, Graham conceded the issue should have been addressed sooner when the concerns were raised by members on the House side.
"I think when somebody had a concern like this, we should have solved it," he said.
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