Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham proposed new national restrictions on abortion on Tuesday, two months before the Nov. 8 midterm elections in which the abortion issue has emerged as potential albatross for Republican candidates.
With control of the Senate up for grabs, and some jittery Republican candidates softening their positions on abortion, Graham announced legislation that would ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy nationwide.
The move carries political risks. Polls have shown the issue of abortion has increased in importance for Democratic voters in the midterms after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had recognized women's constitutional right to abortion for nearly half a century.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Sept. 7-12, 63% of respondents said they were less likely to back candidates who support laws that ban or severely restrict abortion.
Graham's bill, which will go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Congress, is stricter than similar legislation he introduced in previous years that aimed to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The current bill allows exceptions in cases involving rape, incest or risks to the mother's life and health.
The bill quickly came under fire from Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who played on Graham's allegiance to former President Donald Trump by branding the bill as a "MAGA" measure, using the acronym for Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again."
"Proposals like the one today send a clear message from MAGA Republicans to women across the country: your body, our choice," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Abortion rights advocates have scored political victories in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, which paved the way for a raft of state-level abortion bans to be enforced.
Democrat Pat Ryan defeated a Republican rival in a House special election last month after making abortion his top campaign issue. In conservative Kansas, voters overwhelmingly rejected an effort to remove abortion protections from the state's constitution.
Democrats are now hoping to use the abortion issue to capitalize on Republican weaknesses in some House and Senate races.
Republicans are favored to take control of the House in November but could have a harder time regaining the Senate majority, as Trump-endorsed candidates struggle in key swing states including Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Some Republican candidates, including Senate hopeful Blake Masters in Arizona, have gone so far as to change their campaign websites to eliminate hardline rhetoric on abortion, according to U.S. media reports.