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Federal 15-week abortion ban proposal puts Illinois Republicans on spot

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Senator Lindsey Graham is looking to take away abortion rights for women in all states around the U.S. Veuer’s Tony Spitz has the details.

SPRINGFIELD — In a virtual press conference touting Illinois 13th Congressional District Democratic nominee Nikki Budzinski last week, representatives from two national abortion rights organizations spoke in plain terms over what's at stake in this year's midterm elections.

"If they win Congress, we will see a national abortion ban," said Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research for NARAL Pro-Choice America, speaking of Republicans. "That's a fact. They're ramping up efforts to strip us of our fundamental rights. And we're not being alarmists when we say over and over again that the worst is yet to come."

Though many Republicans across the country have seemingly been softening or moving away from their positions on abortion, even to the point of scrubbing some of their websites of their anti-abortion stances, the worst fears of abortion rights advocates seemed to manifest this week.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape or incest.

This would supersede the laws of states with more liberal abortion laws such as Illinois while leaving in place stricter laws — including total bans — that have been enacted in many Republican-led states across the country.

There is currently no chance the legislation will be called with Democrats in control of the House and Senate. But circumstances could change should Republicans take control of Congress and, in 2024, win back the presidency.

“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill,” Graham said. “If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill.”

The proposal came as a shock to many national Republicans, who were hoping to get through the midterm election without having to definitively answer questions on a federal ban. 

To this point, many have sidestepped the question or deferred to the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion and put the decision back in the hands of state legislatures. 

Many Republicans fashioned it as a state's rights issue. Federal authority still supersedes that of states, meaning Congress can still act if it wishes.

For Democrats, this has meant efforts to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law. The House passed such legislation in July, but it does not have an adequate number of votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

For Republicans, the situation is murkier, with many anti-abortion groups, such as Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, advocating for a federal ban.

Former Vice President Mike Pence earlier this week said that enacting abortion ban “is profoundly more important than any short-term politics.”

Most mainstream Republicans are not there, at least yet, in line with their state's rights messaging. Yet enough have raised the specter to make it a legitimate question to ask what the party intends to do if it attains power. 

In Illinois, the responses from Republicans has varied. 

Regan Deering, the Republican nominee in the 13th Congressional District, told Lee Enterprises last week that she opposes a federal abortion ban, a position in line with her earlier statements in support of keeping it "an issue for the states."

"It's a challenge for me being a woman that supports life in a state that has very radical legislation that is late-term abortion and fully taxpayer-funded," she said. "But, that's why I think elections in November are gonna matter at the state level as well."

Regan Deering

Deering

Esther Joy King

King 

Mundelein attorney Kathy Salvi

Salvi

Esther Joy King, the Republican nominee in the 17th Congressional District, holds essentially the same position.

"Esther supported the Supreme Court's decision to return this issue back to the states and believes that's where the decision should ultimately remain because it's closer to the people," said spokeswoman Ashley Phelps. "However, with extreme laws, like late-term abortion and abortions for minors without parental notification requirements, she believes Illinois Democrats are out of touch with where most people are." 

Both Deering and King's Democratic opponents — Nikki Budzinski and Eric Sorensen, respectively — support codifying Roe into law.

Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Kathy Salvi, on the other hand, has not made her position clear on a federal abortion ban. The Mundelein attorney, who faces incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, told reporters at the Illinois State Fair in August that "I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals."

Salvi's campaign did not return a request for comment seeking clarification on her position now that, given Graham's proposal, it is no longer a hypothetical proposition. 

Republicans will likely represent three other Illinois congressional districts next year, but the ones above are worth highlighting because they are either swing districts or ones with a slight Democratic lean. This means control of Congress could be at stake with those elections. 

Of course, abortion isn't the only issue facing voters. In fact, many would say the top issue is inflation. Data released from the government on Tuesday showed a year-over-year price jump of 8.3% in August and a slight .1% uptick from July.

Bad economic data is generally believed to spell bad news for the party in charge. But the abortion question has upended the midterms, giving Democrats something to run on and distract from rising prices. 

So, for many swing voters who consider themselves in favor of abortion rights or, at the very least, are against the bans enacted in some conservative states, the question may become, 'do I trust the word of candidates like Deering and King on a federal abortion ban?'

We will have an answer on that in less than two months. 

In the meantime, it will be harder and harder for candidates like Salvi, who's taking on pro-abortion rights incumbent Sen. Tammy Duckworth, to avoid directly addressing the issue. 

Just like inflation, abortion is on the ballot this November.


Contact Brenden Moore at brenden.moore@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13

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