RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is backing a federal proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy as he remains in a close race against Democrat Cheri Beasley in the battle for North Carolina’s open U.S. Senate seat.  

The legislation, which was announced earlier this week, would provide exceptions for rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. 

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a version of the bill in the Senate nearly three months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Abortions are currently legal in North Carolina up to 20 weeks, with limited exceptions after that point. 

In addition to Budd, North Carolina Republican Reps. Dan Bishop, Virginia Foxx, David Rouzer and Richard Hudson also have signed on as original co-sponsors. 

But, some Republicans have pushed back on the idea, including North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. 

“Senator Tillis hasn’t had a chance to review the legislation, but he believes we need to focus on combatting inflation which is getting worse because of President Biden’s out of control spending. Senator Graham’s bill has no chance of passing the current Congress so the decision will continue to be left to individual states,” said Lauren Scott, a spokesperson for Tillis in a statement to WGHP. 

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June, Budd said the ruling “correctly empowers the people’s representatives in each state to decide how best to protect unborn lives.” 

In a statement about the new federal legislation, Samantha Cotten, a spokesperson for Budd’s Senate campaign, did not address the issue of leaving the decision to the states. 

“Cheri Beasley thinks America is a better place if a healthy baby can be aborted one minute before a full-term birth, a position wildly out-of-step with North Carolinians. We’ve always been transparent that Ted is pro-life and he has previously supported similar pain-capable legislation,” she said. 

Cotten highlighted Beasley’s support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law.  

“Congressman Budd will stop at nothing to put himself between women and doctors. His national abortion ban will not only take away our freedom – it will cost North Carolina women their lives and he owes an explanation to every woman whose life he has now put at risk,” Beasley said in a statement. 

Jillian Riley, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, pushed back on Cotten’s description of the WHPA. 

“The idea that these bills somehow allow a person to have an abortion up to or as the person gives birth is flat out untrue,” she said. “It is simply not how medical care works. And, it’s frankly irresponsible to imply that it is. The vast majority of abortions occur very early in pregnancy. When they do occur later, they are almost exclusively because the pregnant person’s health or life is at risk or because the pregnancy cannot survive.” 

The proposed 15-week federal ban comes as polling shows abortion has become one of the top issues in this year’s election. 

“It’s the Democrats’ extreme position that made this even necessary,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition. “Now voters know what they’re getting. They know that with Congressman Budd they’re going to get someone who supports the reasonable limits on late-term abortion.” 

Republican pollster Paul Shumaker released a poll and memo this week about the state of the election in North Carolina, cautioning Republicans on how they should handle this issue.  

He found only 10 percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. Among Republicans, about 13.7 percent of them hold that view.  

“I begin by telling my fellow Republicans, don’t shoot the messenger, which most are prone to do. These are the results of what voters told a total stranger on the phone. Secondly, Democrats will try to use the issue to fix their voter turnout problem and make inroads with some suburban GOP voters. If we help the Democrats fix their voter intensity problem as they helped fix ours in 2018, then supermajorities become simple majorities, and statewide races tighten up extensively,” Shumaker writes.  

Bobbie Richardson, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, pointed to recent elections in Kansas and Alaska during a press call Thursday that she said show how the abortion issue is influencing voters. 

“This is as important issue, if not a more important issue than inflation because once you force women to make decisions that they would not normally make with their doctors, you have a lifelong impact on those families and their lives whereas inflation goes and comes,” she said. “That is a life-long decision. So, I don’t think that women are going to worry about inflation right now because this issue will also determine their economic stability in years to come.” 

David McLennan, an expert on state politics at Meredith College, said polling shows abortion has moved into the top three issues nationally. 

“Polls have shown most Americans feel like Republicans are on the wrong side of the issue, really no matter where they stand. It doesn’t allow them to talk about things that polls show they’re more favorable on like the economy,” he said. “The more Republicans highlight the issue, I think the more it works to their disadvantage.”