Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the most senior member of the Senate GOP conference, says he would vote against a national 15-week abortion ban sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that has caused a political headache for fellow Republicans.
“I would vote ‘no,’” Grassley said at a televised debate Thursday night with his Democratic election opponent, Mike Franken.
Grassley’s opposition is surprising because he previously co-sponsored Graham’s bill, introduced last year, to ban abortion after 20 weeks.
The Iowa Republican, however, now says abortion is an issue that should be handled at the state level after the Supreme Court earlier this year struck down the constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, according to the Des Moines Register, which first reported on Grassley’s comments.
A Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa poll conducted in July showed Grassley leading Franken, a retired Navy admiral, by 8 points, 47 percent to 39 percent.
But Grassley, who is running for an eighth term, isn’t taking anything for granted in a state that former President Obama carried in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Since then, however, Iowa has shifted hard to the right and voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Embracing a 15-week abortion ban could rev up opposition among Iowa Democrats, especially younger voters in Des Moines and Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, which is overwhelmingly more liberal than the rest of the state.
Only nine Senate Republicans have sponsored Graham’s proposal to ban abortion after 15 weeks except when the life of the pregnant person is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.
By contrast, 43 Senate Republicans co-sponsored Graham’s 20-week abortion ban when he introduced it in January 2021.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) wasn’t thrilled when Graham introduced his 15-week abortion ban — without consulting with the minority leader — a few weeks before the election, a move that shifted attention to the abortion debate from inflation, crime and the Southern border.
McConnell signaled last month that he does not plan to bring Graham’s bill to the floor in 2023, even if Republicans win back the Senate majority, which would leave the senior Kentucky senator in charge of the schedule.
“With regard to his bill, you’ll have to ask him about it. In terms of scheduling, I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” he told reporters.