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South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds joins chorus of states rights Republicans opposed to Graham abortion bill

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Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds on Sunday joined several of his Republican colleagues in opposition of a national 15-week abortion ban introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Rounds said he does not support abortion legislation at the federal level, saying he believes it is a matter for state governments to decide.

"I think the individual states will come up with a multiple, a whole lot of different ideas about how to appropriately discuss abortion in general, and then I think there will be a consensus over a period of years," he told CNN anchor Jake Tapper. "But at this point, to have Congress step back and tell all the states that we know better than them how to handle this, is probably not the right direction to go."

Rounds added that there aren't enough votes in the House or the Senate to pass abortion restrictions, observing that multiple versions of a 20-week ban proposed by congressional Republicans before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade never passed.

The Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ended constitutional protections for abortion and permitted states to ban or restrict the procedure according to the will of the people. While some pro-life activists hope for Congress to enact federal legislation restricting abortion, Republican elected officials are divided on the issue.

Graham's introduction of a 15-week abortion ban just two months away from the November elections sent GOP strategists into a frenzy of confusion and anxiety. Republican operatives that spoke to NBC News called it a "bad idea" and a political misstep that gives Democrats an opportunity to attack the GOP as extreme on abortion instead of defend their mishandling of the economy and inflation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) distanced himself from the bill, telling reporters last week, "most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level."

Pro-choice Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) meanwhile outright opposed Graham's bill in favor of federal protections for abortion rights.

Politico reported that several Republican senators "were highly perplexed at Graham’s decision to introduce a new abortion ban — more conservative than his previous proposals — at a precarious moment for the party.”

But Graham dismissed his critics in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," asserting that Democrats hold the extreme position on abortion.

"Chuck Schumer introduced legislation several months ago that would allow abortion on-demand up to the moment of birth, like China and North Korea, for the entire nation," Graham said Sunday. "What did I do in response? I said at 15 weeks when the baby can feel pain and sucks its thumb that we're gonna ban abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, life of the mother, we're talking almost four months into the pregnancy. It puts us in line with France, which is at 12 weeks. Germany, England is at 14 weeks. Only in Washington is it extreme to protect the baby at 15 weeks from an excruciating death."

"Here's what Dobbs says: Elected officials can make the decision, state or federal. I'm not inconsistent," he added. "To all the states’ rights people: There's a lot of things been done in this country under the name of states’ rights that was wrong."

Polls show that a majority of Americans support abortion rights, but do favor some restrictions. A Pew Research Center poll taken in July found that 62% of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in most or all cases. However, an AP-NORC poll also taken that month showed that while about two-thirds of Americans think abortion should be legal in most cases throughout the first trimester, only 42% say it should be legal in the second trimester, and just 24% think abortion should be legal in the third trimester. About half of survey respondents said states should allow abortion through 15 weeks, which is the limit imposed by Graham's legislation.

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