Democrats held their second hearing this week on Thursday in the House Oversight and Reform Committee about their urgent need to pass legislation giving women unlimited access to abortion, up to nine months. The hearings are in response to abortion laws like the one recently enacting in Texas that limit abortions to the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said it is urgent the Senate pass the Women’s Health Protection Act because of all the “extremist” state abortion laws being filed and the “hostile” Supreme Court, referring to the conservative majority.
Maloney said women need to have control over their own bodies and that state governments are putting women’s rights in peril, as “they are bulldozing right through them. We must take bold action to protect and expand abortion care rights and access.”
“Last week, the House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act, which would establish a federally protected right to abortion care for every person in the United States, no matter where they live,” Maloney added.
Democrats also have a bill that would reverse the Hyde Amendment and allow taxpayer dollars to be used to fund abortions for those who cannot afford them, by passing Rep. Barbara Lee’s Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-W.Va.) said she does not want to normalize abortion.
“I refuse to normalize abortion and reject its very premise that the sacrifice of an innocent life that cannot speak for itself is justified in any way. We live in a society that mistakes choice for liberty and denies the dignity of unborn life,” said Foxx during the Thursday hearing.
With the Supreme Court currently having a conservative majority, Democrats are afraid the court may overturn the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. They are also trying to stop states from enacting abortion restrictions like the bill passed recently by the Texas legislature, which restricts almost all abortions after six weeks and allows whistleblowers to turn in someone breaking this law.
The Supreme Court will consider a case by the state of Mississippi on Dec. 1, in which the court is being asked to overturn the 1973 ruling that allows abortion up to 23 weeks, as decided with Roe v. Wade.
Mississippi’s lawyers said in papers filed with the court in July that the Roe v. Wade ruling was wrong and should be overturned. Acting Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher, in a separate Supreme Court filing of new friend-of-the-court briefs, asked the Justices to uphold the federal abortion ruling.
In the meantime, the Democratic-controlled House on Sept. 24 voted 218–211 to pass the broad abortion access bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act. One Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) opposed the abortion bill.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who supports a woman’s right to choose, has said she opposes the recent abortion legislation because it weakens exceptions provided to health care providers who refused to perform abortions on moral or religious grounds.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the Democrats’ abortion bill, said her bill is countering laws like the one in Texas.
“But anti-abortion extremists have been working ever since the passage of Roe v. Wade to put abortion services out of reach for as many Americans as possible. Texas’s SB8 is just the latest example. The Texas law is egregious and downright chilling. It deputizes vigilantes to harass anyone helping someone obtain an abortion,” said Chu.
Under the new abortion bill, “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021,” a woman can receive abortion services without certain limitations or requirements: no “specific tests” or “medical procedures in connection with the provision of abortion services,” no “medically inaccurate information” before an abortion, no limit on providers ability to prescribe or give drugs, no medically unnecessary visits to a provider or other entity, and no requirement to disclose reasons for seeking abortion services before viability of the fetus.
Opponents of the broad abortion bill have objections to the lack of consideration for the infant’s rights. Chu’s bill states that a woman can get an abortion at any point “prior to fetal viability, including a prohibition or restriction on a particular abortion procedure” and that abortion is allowed even “after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider assesses that continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
One of two pro-life witnesses at Thursday’s hearing, Dr. Ingrid Skop, a Texas-based OB/GYN, told the committee that science has advanced since Roe v. Wade, and lawmakers should take new findings into consideration when passing abortion laws to consider the life of the baby.
“We have created a class of humans considered unworthy of life on their own merits, valuable only if someone else desires them. This is the definition of genocide. We need to re-examine this as a scientific and human rights issue, not through the lens of political partisanship or social engineering,” said Dr. Skop.
The Democrats’ abortion bill will now move to the Senate, and Maloney called on the upper chamber to expand abortion access. “I call on the Senate to meet the moment, and immediately pass this critical bill,” said Maloney.