Senate Judiciary Holds Hearing on Bill That Would Overturn States' Abortion Restrictions

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday on what has been titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (WHPA), a measure that would, ironically, overturn most state pro-life laws which have been passed to protect both women from unsafe and unsanitary abortion clinics, as well as their unborn children.

The legislation (S. 1696) was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) who, last year, was ranked by the National Journal as the most liberal of the U.S. senators. Blumenthal served an unprecedented five terms as the attorney general of Connecticut prior to being elected to the Senate.

As Peter Jesserer Smith noted at National Catholic Register, since he introduced the abortion-deregulation bill (WHPA), Blumenthal has quietly obtained 35 co-sponsors in the Senate and 116 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, all of them Democrats.

With the success of pro-life laws in the states that limit the practice of abortion and protect women from unsafe abortion clinics – which previously may have gone uninspected due to political pressure – the left is desperate for a bill that will undermine state legislatures and overturn all of their new laws.

Because the proposed legislation is so far-reaching in its deregulation of the abortion industry, pro-life advocates have named it the “Gosnell Prerogative Act,” in reference to Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who was convicted of murder after his clinic, dubbed the “House of Horrors,” went uninspected for years due to the left’s politics of abortion.

Blumenthal’s proposal is not only dismissive of any consideration of the life of the unborn child, but also of the rights of any state or local government to make its own laws about restricting abortion. In short, the bill involves total federal control of abortion.

Regarding Blumenthal’s measure, Mary Harned, staff counsel with Americans United for Life, told the Register, “It is not just an attempt to codify Roe v. Wade, but it actually is much worse than current Supreme Court doctrines,” because the bill would “invalidate” nearly all of the pro-life legislation enacted thus far under current court precedents.

According to the bill’s summary, the WHPA “makes the following limitations and requirements concerning abortion services unlawful and prohibits their imposition or application by any government:”

  • a requirement that a medical professional perform specific tests or follow specific medical procedures, unless generally required in the case of medically comparable procedures;
  • a limitation on an abortion provider's ability to delegate tasks, other than one applicable to medically comparable procedures;
  • a limitation on an abortion provider's ability to prescribe or dispense drugs based on her or his good-faith medical judgment, other than one generally applicable;
  • a limitation on an abortion provider's ability to provide abortion services via telemedicine, other than one generally applicable;
  • a requirement or limitation concerning the physical plant, equipment, staffing, or hospital transfer arrangements of facilities where abortions are performed, or the credentials, hospital privileges, or status of personnel at such facilities that is not otherwise imposed where medically comparable procedures are performed;
  • a requirement that, prior to obtaining an abortion, a woman make medically unnecessary visits to the provider of abortion services or to any individual or entity that does not provide such services; and
  • a requirement or limitation that prohibits or restricts medical training for abortion procedures, other than one generally applicable to medically comparable procedures.

The proposed legislation also “makes unlawful a measure or action that restricts the provision of abortion services, or the facilities that provide them, that is similar to any of those described above if it singles out abortion services or make abortion services more difficult to access…”

In addition, the bill “provides standards for the making of a prima facie case in a civil action challenging such restrictions and factors to be considered by a court in determining whether a measure or action impedes access to abortion services.”

The measure would not only ban restrictions on abortions prior to “fetal viability,” but would also prohibit state or local governments from making any such laws.

“This bill is based on the assumption that one million abortions a year is far too few,” Richard Doerflinger, associate director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, told the Register. “To say the least, I would call this a minority position in the United States.”

Referring to Blumenthal’s bill as “the pro-abortion agenda on steroids,” Doerflinger added that the measure “demands that the killing of the unborn be treated as basic medical care” and gives the unborn child “the legal status of a tumor.”

“Senator Blumenthal’s bill is extreme and out of touch with the views of millions of Americans on both sides of the abortion debate,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins in a press release Tuesday. “It is deeply troubling that the Senate Judiciary Committee would consider a measure that puts vulnerable women in greater danger by undermining clinic health standards that are grounded in common sense.”

“The measure even revokes laws requiring abortionists to be licensed physicians and any restrictions on late term abortions,” Perkins continued. “These laws are vital to avoid a future Kermit Gosnell house of horror.”

On Monday a new paper released by the Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) Charlotte Lozier Institute examined the WHPA further.

“Contrary to its innocuous name, S.1696 will have profound impact on a wide range of federal and state laws that have enjoyed consensus support,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Lozier Institute. “This sweeping legislation would jeopardize or outright overturn hundreds of federal and state laws that promote unborn life and protect women’s health.”

Donovan said the institute’s legal review finds that the bill would overturn state third-trimester bans on abortion, limits on abortion after five months of pregnancy, and laws against sex-selection abortion.

“It would install abortion on demand for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy – even disability discrimination abortions,” he added. “The bill would also make it practically impossible for states to stop off-label use of abortion drugs and ‘tele-med’ abortions carried out without a physician present, to retain rules against non-physicians performing abortions, or to adopt health and safety standards for abortion facilities.”

In a press release, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser condemned the bill, stating, “Majority Leader Reid earns the label ‘pro-abortion’ this week. Not only will the Senate vote to force religious Americans to pay for the abortion drugs of others, the bill under consideration today would invalidate hundreds of pro-life, pro-woman laws.”

“The effect? This would enshrine abortion on demand up until birth,” she added.


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