COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday he will lead the charge in the Senate on federal legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican senator said on Fox News Sunday that he plans to introduce a bill this week that would allow abortions after 20 weeks only to protect the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest.
The Republican-controlled House passed its version of the bill in June. It's not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto it if it ever reached his desk, calling the measure "an assault on a woman's right to choose."
Some 10 states have passed similar laws, and several are facing court challenges. In at least three instances — Arizona, Georgia and Idaho — federal and state judges have struck down abortion bans at 20 weeks after fertilization as unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside of the womb, generally interpreted as 22 to 24 weeks.
Asked about the constitutionality of his bill, Graham said a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, noting doctors often provide anesthesia when performing surgery on a 20-week-old fetus.
Opponents dispute that the fetus feels pain, calling such findings inconclusive. Graham said that's an argument that should go before the Supreme Court.
"The state, the government, has a legitimate interest to protect the child at the 20-week period of development because they can feel pain, and that's what a rational, humane society should do," he told Chris Wallace.
Graham, who's seeking a third term next year, discounted the notion that he's pushing the issue to shore up support from conservatives. The incumbent faces primary challenges from three candidates who have criticized him for working with Democrats on immigration and other issues.
"My record on being a pro-life senator, member of Congress is clear. I'm proud to lead this charge. This is a debate worthy of a great democracy," he said. "When do you become you, at 20 weeks of a pregnancy? What is the proper role of the government in protecting that child?"