WASHINGTON — Republicans from Georgia and other states are sending mixed messages on abortion, both claiming the issue should be left up to states while supporting a new federal ban.

U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter, Andrew Clyde, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk and Austin Scott are all co-sponsors of the House version of legislation South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed to restrict abortion access after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Hice, a Greensboro Republican, said in an email to constituents last week that he was “proud” to co-sponsor the bill.

“Senator Graham’s bill aims to reflect the majority of Americans who oppose late-term abortion — and much to the Democrats’ chagrin, it is many more than expected,” he wrote. “While I am fervently opposed to abortion at any point during pregnancy, this ban would safeguard against states with extreme laws allowing for late-term abortions.”

The same day the email was sent, Hice told a reporter that decisions on abortion bans should be left up to states and that Republicans retaking control of the House after the midterms, as many predict, doesn’t change that.

“That’s where it needs to be dealt with,” he said. “I don’t know what the next Congress will do. The Supreme Court basically said it’s a state issue, and that’s where it needs to be addressed.”

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The backers of Graham’s legislation say their goal is to ensure no abortions occur after 15 weeks of pregnancy but would not preclude states from imposing stricter limits. Georgia’s abortion law bans the procedures after a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant.

Graham’s move follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down federal protections for abortion, which allowed new restrictive laws to take effect in Georgia and other states. At the time the ruling was issued, many Republican lawmakers characterized it as putting abortion among the many topics where states have the final say.

But as Democrats speculate that anger over the resulting abortion restrictions could improve their chances for success in the midterm elections, Republicans are struggling to remain consistent.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, Democrats in Congress have attempted to pass a law protecting abortion access. The House already approved such a measure, but Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block a vote in that chamber after the Dobbs ruling leaked.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, is among those who have spoken out strongly in favor of abortion rights. Although her seat is safe, and she is expected to win easily in November, she often mentions the issue as she campaigns on behalf of other Democrats on the ballot.

“Republicans have made their move against women’s rights,” she wrote on Twitter earlier this month. “This November, we must do all we can to elect candidates that will support our reproductive autonomy and recognize that no one can make decisions on behalf of our women.”

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Hice said recently that there’s no contradiction between his support for Graham’s bill and his desire to leave abortion policy to the states.

“The Supreme Court returned the issue to the states where abortion was governed prior to the constitutionally illiterate decision in Roe,” Hice said. “The federal government, based on the principles espoused in our founding documents, also has an interest in protecting the right to life for all Americans, born and unborn. I am proud to sponsor and promote legislation that protects this God-given right.”

A New York Times/Siena College poll released Friday showed 62% of American voters support keeping abortion mostly or always legal. In addition, 52% of voters polled said they strongly oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Some Republicans are skeptical about Graham’s proposal. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that even if the party retakes control of the chamber after the midterms he is not sure the legislation is worth a vote.

“I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said last week.

While almost half of U.S. House Republicans have signed onto the 15-week abortion ban, Graham’s bill has the support of just four of 50 GOP members in the Senate.

Loudermilk is among the sponsors of the federal abortion ban, but his office said he signed on before the Dobbs decision. The Cassville Republican’s office did not say whether he plans to remove himself as a sponsor now. Loudermilk told the AJC he believes that abortion access is an issue for states to decide.

“After the Dobbs decision, this is really something that should be handled at the state level,” he said. “Even though we could do something here, what the courts were saying is, that’s really not within the scope of federal authority. It’s not within the enumerated powers in Congress.”

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