KHN’s ‘What’s Health?’: Graham’s Bill Rehearses the Abortion Debate



Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C) put abortion back on the Republican agenda this week with a legislative proposal calling for a national ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. For many in his party, it was an unwelcome intrusion that could add to public unease with the party’s efforts to limit access to abortion as they look to the midterm elections.

The World Health Organization suggested this week that an end to the Covid-19 pandemic is in sight, but that doesn’t mean a second about how public health officials have reacted or their plans moving forward. There is no end to guessing.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey, The State’s Rachel Cohers, CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman, and The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Graham appeared to be trying to build consensus among conservatives with his bill. Republicans are wondering how a Supreme Court ruling this summer that ended the constitutional right to abortion has galvanized voters who oppose the measure. In some red states, there has been confusion over how far lawmakers might support a ban. Graham’s bill would allow states to enact abortion laws that are more restrictive but would limit efforts by more progressive states to keep abortions legal later in pregnancy. It was supported by several influential anti-abortion groups.
  • Many Capitol Hill Republicans didn’t seem to care. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the proposal, saying the issue needed to be dealt with at the state level, and by pledging to bring up the bill if Republicans take control of the Senate in the fall elections. Refused. Conservatives have long argued that access to abortion should be a state decision.
  • Graham’s announcement was painful for Capitol Hill Republicans. Much of the political debate over abortion access has focused on state races, but his bill allows Democrats to make it an issue in congressional races as well.
  • Anti-abortion groups say Graham’s effort is a good first step toward setting policy for the country, especially as states continue to pursue more restrictions.
  • In the past, the 15-week gestational limit has received considerable public support, according to polls. But new polls suggest that Americans’ views are changing as they watch the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision and the tragic stories of pregnancies with late detection of fetal anomalies or miscarriages. In the end, the mother’s health deteriorates.
  • On the Covid-19 front, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over but he is optimistic about the fight against the virus. “The end is in sight,” he said.
  • His comments came as the Lancet Covid-19 Commission, a group of global health experts, blamed WHO, the US government and others for insufficient coordination in fighting the disease. And a report by Politico and the German newspaper Welt examines four nongovernmental health organizations that had influence over the pandemic effort.
  • Despite Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ comments, public health officials in the US are strongly urging Americans to get another Covid booster this fall. And the situation suggests that public health officials may not have a good handle on how to transition Covid from being treated as an emergency to an ongoing health threat.
  • That approach is also muddled because the Biden administration has asked Congress for more money to fund vaccination and testing efforts, but congressional Republicans are unlikely to support the effort. He believes that it is time for the government to get out of this effort and allow the formal health industry to take over.
  • The latest figures from the Census Bureau show a near-record decline in the number of people who are uninsured. But most experts are concerned because once the Covid emergency ends, states will be allowed to reorganize their Medicaid rolls and many people who were covered by the federal-state health program during the pandemic will be allowed to continue. They may be excluded from government coverage.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read, too:

Mary Agnes Carey: KHN’s “As state institutions close, families of longtime residents face agonizing choices” by Tony Lees

Rachel Cohers: Politico’s “A New Approach to Domestic Violence” by Joanne Kenen

Sandhya Raman: The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Philly’s kids are alone in grieving the far-reaching trauma of gun violence, advocates say” by Abraham Gutman

Margot Sanger-Katz: The New York Times reported that “Despite their influence and vast access to information, members of Congress can buy and sell stocks with few restrictions” and “These 97 members of Congress traded in companies influenced by their committees.” Reported” Kate Kelly, Adam Playford, and Alicia Parlapiano

Also discussed on this week’s podcast:

“How Bill Gates and Partners Used Their Power to Control the Global Covid Response — With Little Oversight” by Erin Benko, Ashleigh Furlong, and Lennart Fahler of Politico and the World

Census Bureau’s “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2021”

To listen to all of our podcasts, click here.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.


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