WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Senate bill that would make it unlawful to restrict abortion services or the facilities that provide them is “the most radical pro-abortion bill ever considered by Congress,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.
Tobias was among several people who testified July 15 at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act, or S. 1696, which was introduced in November 2013 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut.
The measure subtitled “Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights,” would invalidate any state laws that prevent access to abortion. It is an updated and expanded version of the Freedom of Choice Act that would go further than simply upholding legal abortion. The latter bill has been introduced year after year In Congress but has never been passed.
“Abortion is brutal to both the mother and the child,” added U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who was among opponents of the bill who testified.
Dr. Monique Chireau, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University, explained that the effects of abortion go beyond a physical toll on women, saying that it also is psychologically harmful to women.
Chireau said that among women who have had abortions there is an 81 percent increase in mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.
Blumethal, who chaired the hearing, argued in favor of the measure, saying it would end what he characterized as a relentless attack on abortion clinics and providers throughout the country, referring to the effort in some states to regulate abortion clinics like any hospital clinic. Abortion supporters contend such measures are not aimed at protecting women’s health but are only meant to restrict women’s access to abortion.
Texas passed a law requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it last November. Statistics show that more than 200 women in Texas annually must be hospitalized after getting an abortion.
Tennessee and Utah also enforce laws on hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors. Similar laws are under temporary court injunctions in Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
At the Senate committee hearing, Nancy Northup, president of Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that S. 1696 was a matter of common sense.
“The Women’s Health Protection Act will ensure that the fundamental right to safe, legal abortion services is unhampered by regulations passed by politicians designed to choke off women’s access to reproductive health care under the guise these laws protect their safety and well-being,” she said.
Dr. Willie Parker, a physician based in Birmingham, Alabama, said he must travel to Mississippi to help female patients. There is only one abortion clinic in Mississippi; it’s in Jackson.
Parker argued opposition to S. 1696 was simply a war on women, especially minority and low-income women. “A woman’s access (to abortion) shouldn’t be denied simply because she lives in Mississippi,” he said. “The care she receives should be determined by medical evidence, not by her ZIP code.”
A National Right to Life press release on the bill said that among the laws it would nullify are any requirements states have that pregnant women seeking an abortion be provided “with specific information on their unborn child and on alternatives to abortion.”
Among others who testified against the bill were Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
“The bill will not become law because the American people do not support it,” said Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A week earlier, participants on a panel at the Heritage Foundation who analyzed the decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court during its recently completed term said that the First Amendment and the pro-life movement won a victory in the court’s ruling on an abortion buffer zone case from Massachusetts, McCullen v. Coakley.
In a June 26 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics — meant to keep demonstrators away — violates First Amendment rights.
Mark Rienzi, associate professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law School, said violation of the Massachusetts law, which was put in place in 2007 and had been challenged since then, could have landed a demonstrator and anyone who listened to him or her in jail for two and a half years.
He called it a pretty radical idea that in the U.S. that someone could be put in jail for having a peaceful interaction on a sidewalk.
Rienzi praised the high court for overturning the law, saying the decision bolstered the First Amendment.