“Women are tired of being targeted and are looking to Congress to right this wrong by the Supreme Court,” Senator Patty Murray, the bill’s sponsor, said on the Senate floor Monday.
But the bill is not expected to get far. The procedural motion Wednesday requires 60 votes, which it is not expected to muster.
Also unlikely to get to the president’s desk, at least this year, is the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which got a hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
“The reason for this bill is the cascading avalanche of restrictions on reproductive health care around the country,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, who sponsored the bill and chaired the hearing. “More than half the states now have these unwarranted and unconstitutional restrictions.”
The bill, which was introduced last year, would outlaw most state and local abortion restrictions, including any that “single out the provision of abortion services for restrictions that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures,” that do not “advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services,” and that “make abortion services more difficult to access.”
Those state laws and regulations—more than 200 passed between 2011 and 2013—are “designed to accomplish by the pen what could not be accomplished through brute force: the closure of facilities providing essential reproductive health care to the women of this country,” Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights testified.
But abortion opponents complain that the bill is so sweeping it would also eliminate, in the words of Senator Ted Cruz, “commonsense restrictions the majority of Americans support.”
Senator Charles Grassley complained that if the bill passed, “the law that helped convict Kermit Gosnell would be wiped away.” Gosnell is the Pennsylvania abortion doctor convicted of murder in 2013 in the deaths of three babies and one of his female patients.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., said there are good reasons to single out abortion separately from other medical procedures. “Abortion is brutal to both the mother and unborn child,” she said. “It is not health care.”
Among those restrictions that should be kept, testified Dr. Monique Chireau, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Duke University, are laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
“Admitting privileges imply a level of competence,” she told the committee. “When physicians cannot get privileges there’s often a reason why,” such as a trail of malpractice problems.
But that’s not always true, testified Dr. Willie Parker, an OB/GYN who provides services at the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi. Under a new state law, Parker tried to obtain privileges, he said, and “many (hospitals) declined to evaluate my application.”
This post appears courtesy of Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.