Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ted Budd, left, of North Carolina, reacts as he takes the stage with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him, during a rally, Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Selma, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Ted Budd
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ted Budd, left, of North Carolina, reacts as he takes the stage with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him, during a rally, Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Selma, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

The bill has no chance of becoming law under this Congress, but with the fall elections approaching, it highlights the stark differences between Republicans and Democrats on abortion rights and the urgency of the midterm elections.

Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina has co-sponsored a Republican proposal to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill, introduced this week by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has no chance of progressing since Democrats control both the Senate and House. But better than any debate or political ad ahead of Election Day, the bill also highlights the stark differences between the parties on reproductive freedom

Abortion is on the ballot in 2022.

Budd is in a tight race against Democrat Cheri Beasley for a US Senate seat, one of only a few across the country that could help decide which party is in control of Congress and can set its agenda. 

Voters are paying attention.

The US Supreme Court’s ruling this year stripping away abortion protections, prompted several Republican-controlled state legislatures to severely restrict abortion access or ban it it outright. But the ruling also galvanized voters, who widely support abortion rights access.

Voting rights groups, including the Young Voters group NextGen America, have reported a huge increase in engagement from likely voters.  The ruling, and now Budd’s bill proposal, show how urgent the 2022 midterm elections will be, not just for national races, but for local elections as well. 

That is especially true in North Carolina.

Abortion is legal here for now, but the Senate race is not the only election in November that could determine wether it stays that way.

Republicans need to pick up only five seats in the General Assembly on Election Day to be able to pass abortion restrictions that would survive any veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. And Democrats could lose control of the state Supreme Court, which is expected to be one of the final battlegrounds on the issue next year.

“By signing on to legislation that would ban abortion nationwide, Congressman Budd continues to show North Carolinians how dangerous he would be in the U.S. Senate,” the North Carolina Democratic Party said Wednesday in a statement posted to its website. “This November, voters will reject his agenda of taking away our freedoms and stripping away women’s rights to make their own health care decisions and send Cheri Beasley to the Senate to stand up for them.”

But the gulf between most Republicans and voters on abortion is so big that even party leaders criticized Graham and Budd for the national bill proposal.

Voters in the conservative state of Kansas, for example, widely voted against a state measure that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion, scaring many Republicans into backing away from their previously stident anti-abortion messaging, even scrubbing mentions of it from their campaign websites.

Budd and Beasley are in a tight race, and North Carolina has not seen a significant increase in voter registration after the Supreme Court decision. But other states have seen surges, especially among women. As the election gets closer, North Carolina could see a sharper increase in registrations, Michael Bitzer, Catawba College Political Science Professor, told WCNC this month.

In a press conference tied to the bill, Graham made it clear that he knew the bill had no chance of becoming law under this Congress. The move, he said, was a sign to voters of what they can expect if Republicans gain control of the House and Senate.

If voters had any doubts before, there can be no doubts now. 

They know exactly what Republican control will mean for abortion rights.