Dem bill would ban states' restrictive abortion requirements

A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would protect abortion rights by banning restrictive requirements enacted by states.

The legislation would prohibit state laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to women’s health, such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors deemed unnecessary in their professional opinion.

“A woman’s right to choose is meaningless if she’s stripped of her options,” Rep. Judy Chu (Calif.) said at a press conference. “State laws eroding access to abortion create unnecessary hurdles and jeopardize women’s health. We’re introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act today to ensure every woman can access safe medical care regardless of where she lives.”

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Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) have co-sponsored the bill in the upper chamber. Chu and Reps. Marcia Fudge (Ohio), and Lois Frankel (Fla.) have introduced it in the House.  

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Senate bill had 29 co-sponsors, and the House bill had 53.

The lawmakers argue a slew of states have passed laws “that blatantly violate the constitutional protections afforded women, such as bans on abortions prior to viability,” the bill says. 

Nearly two dozen states enforce strict abortion laws, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America. In response, a number of abortion rights advocates have launched legal challenges.

Just a few weeks ago, a federal judge in Texas blocked a portion of the state’s new restrictive abortion measure, which would require physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Three days later, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed that judge's decision, thereby enacting the law.

Courts in Mississippi, Wisconsin, Alabama and North Dakota have also blocked similar requirements in each of their states’ laws. In July, a judge stopped the enforcement of North Dakota’s law, which was considered the nation’s strictest. It would have banned abortions beginning at six weeks of pregnancy.

“We codify Roe v. Wade … so that we don’t have to fight these battles state by state by state by state,” Boxer said about the new bill.

In contrast to the Democrats’ bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last week. The legislation would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. It’s a companion bill to Rep. Trent Franks's (R-Ariz.) bill, which the House passed in June.

“It’s outrageous," Boxer said Wednesday about Graham’s bill. “It puts women in extreme danger."

“They think they know better than women and their doctors. The fact is, they don’t. It’s not the job of a politician to play doctor and to dictate how these doctors perform medicine,” said Baldwin.