Only months before a pivotal national election in which Democrats are widely predicted to lose power in the Senate, they are attempting to pass a sweeping law that could nullify abortion restrictions in every state across the country.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings Tuesday on S. 1696, a bill called the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which contains broad stipulations prohibiting any governments from restricting women’s access to abortions. The legislation was introduced on Nov. 13, 2013, is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and now has 35 co-sponsors.
On Monday, the National Right to Life called the legislation as the “most radical pro-abortion bill ever considered by Congress.”
“It’s a big deal,” said David French, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law. “This is very similar to the Hobby Lobby legislation that the Senate Democrats are pushing. They’re trying to go back to the old ‘war on women,’ and drive single women, predominately, to the polls. Right now, what else are they running on?”
He told WND, “But you want to talk about a bill that’s counterproductive to the constituency that they’re catering to? This is federal legislation that makes women’s lives more dangerous in the name of women. That’s what’s stunning about this.”
The bill eliminates rules like pre-abortion waiting periods, ultrasounds, targeted clinic regulations and hospital admitting privileges requirements for abortionists. It also orders courts to interpret its language liberally in favor of abortion “rights.”
French told WND, “It’s particularly ironic that this bill was introduced after the Kermit Gosnell debacle, when the reality is by creating such a regulation-free zone around abortion in the United States, you would only be empowering and enabling future Gosnells.”
French was referring to the 2013 case of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing born-alive babies by snipping their necks with scissors and by other means.
Gosnell’s filthy clinic reportedly contained severed infant feet in jars and babies kept in bags in the freezer. Operating tables were said to have been covered in bloody drainage from previous patients. Toilets were clogged with fetal remains. Trash and moldy water were found scattered through waiting rooms. Gosnell reportedly operated with unsterilized instruments alongside unqualified staff in unsanitary conditions.
Since the Gosnell revelations shocked the nation, legislators across the country have sought to implement rules to protect patient safety and provide informed consent for women seeking abortions.
“One of the reasons why we’ve seen quite a number of abortion clinic closings in the past several years – Texas and Virginia are notable for the number of closings they’ve had – is because states have chosen to regulate abortion practices to provide some basic safety requirements,” French explained.
“Of course, abortion is always deadly for one person at least,” he said. “Texas and Virginia and Mississippi and some of these other states are trying to maintain some basic levels of medical proficiency and basic levels of safety within those clinics for the women who go into them.”
He said S. 1696 declares that a woman’s desire to have an abortion would trump all of those states’ safety requirements.
“That is incredibly dangerous,” French said. “It empowers and enables the Kermit Gosnells of the world, and it would be a gigantic power grab by the federal government over state governments that are consistently and democratically choosing to enact laws that increase the level of safety and information available to women who enter abortion clinics.”
The bill condemns what it calls a “dramatic increase in in the number of laws and regulations singling out abortion that threaten women’s health and their ability to access safe abortion services by interfering with health care professionals’ ability to provide such services.”
To remedy this issue, they declare, “Congressional action is now necessary to put an end to these restrictions. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in the passage of laws that blatantly violate the constitutional protections afforded women, such as bans on abortions prior to viability.”
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans believe abortions should be legal in all circumstances.
The “Women’s Health Protection Act” prohibits any government from imposing:
- a prohibition or ban prior to fetal viability;
- a prohibition after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating physician, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the woman’s life or health;
- a restriction that limits a woman’s ability to obtain an immediate abortion when a health care professional believes, based on good-faith medical judgment, that delay would pose a risk to the woman’s health; and
- a prohibition or restriction on obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability based on a woman’s reasons or perceived reasons or that requires her to state her reasons before obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability.
The legislation broadly defines “viability” as “the point in a pregnancy at which, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care professional, based on the particular facts of the case before her or him, there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained fetal survival outside the uterus with or without artificial support.”
According to the bill, it would also be illegal for governments to put into effect:
- 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 act says it does not apply to laws concerning access to clinic entrances, parental consent and notification requirements, insurance coverage of abortion or partial-birth abortions described in 18 U.S. Code 1531.
An analysis of S. 1696 by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found the following:
- S. 1696 would wipe out 20-week laws. These laws are designed to advance women’s health and protect unborn children from pain.
- The bill would protect the practices of discrimination abortions based on sex and disability.
- The bill would make it harder if not practically impossible for states to stop off-label uses of abortion drugs.
- The bill would make it harder if not practically impossible for states to stop the practice of telemedicine abortions and require that a physician be physically present.
- Depending on how it is interpreted, the bill would wipe out state ultrasound information requirements and waiting periods.
- Depending on how courts interpreted the bill, the bill could trump state and federal conscience laws that protect pro-life doctors and hospitals.
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement, “Our legal review finds that Senator Blumenthal’s bill would overturn state third-trimester bans on abortion, overturn limits on abortion after five months of pregnancy and upend laws against sex-selection abortion.”
He continued, “It would install abortion on demand for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy – even disability discrimination abortions. The bill would also make it practically impossible for states to stop off-label uses 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.”
The text of the legislation says, “Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. … Federal legislation putting a stop to harmful restrictions throughout the United States is necessary to ensure that women in all States have access to safe abortion services, an essential constitutional right repeatedly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.”
But French said, “They’re always trying to define the severity and invasiveness of an abortion procedure down to as if it’s something like pulling a tooth. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He added, “They’re wanting to do a gigantic federal power grab to make abortion more dangerous, and they’re going to call it ‘accessible,’ but it was very ‘accessible’ in Kermit Gosnell’s case.”
French explained that the bill’s authors clearly value accessibility to the procedure over patient safety, which is unprecedented in the field of medicine.
“In no other context does the medical field or the federal or state government say that the overriding principle of any kind of medical procedure is accessibility,” he said. “Think about the FDA and the process any drug has to go through to make it to market.
“Think about the regulations on hospitals, outpatient clinics, doctors regarding safety and the practice of medicine. Think about the labyrinth of medical malpractice liability that hovers over the medical profession in every field.”
He said, “In every area of medicine, the No. 1 priority is not accessibility. The No. 1 priority is safety.”
While the bill could pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, it would likely face near-impossible odds in the House.
However, French contends the bill may not survive even the Senate.
“I think it’s so extreme, there’s a good chance it might not survive a cloture vote,” he said. “I don’t know that this would make it out of the Senate. What Republican is going to vote for cloture on that bill?”