Democrats, Republicans in Congress spar over state abortion laws

Democrats, Republicans in Congress spar over state abortion laws
© Greg Nash

The fight over state abortion bans moved to Congress on Tuesday with Democrats holding a hearing to declare an ongoing “crisis” in states across the country.

“This country has reached a crisis point for women’s constitutional rights to control their own bodies and their own reproductive choices,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerGOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures READ: Articles of impeachment against Trump Trump, White House rip Democrats over impeachment articles MORE (D-N.Y.) said at a hearing Tuesday.

Nadler and Democrats blasted recently passed abortion bans in states including Alabama and Georgia as an effort to force the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

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The hearing is unlikely to result in any congressional action while Republicans control the Senate, but showed how Democrats plan to expand abortion access should they win back the Senate in 2020 and defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE.

Democrats touted measures that would block state governments from passing abortion restrictions and eliminate a ban on federal funding for the procedure.

Early on, Nadler traded barbs with Republicans, calling Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonOvernight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing Judiciary hearing gets heated as Democratic counsel interrogates GOP staffer Judiciary fireworks: GOP accuses Democratic counsel of impugning Trump's motives MORE (La.) “arrogant” for wanting to “impose” his moral beliefs on others.

“The power of the state should not be used by one segment of society to impose its moral or religious beliefs on another segment of society,” Nadler said.

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTrump to sign order penalizing colleges over perceived anti-Semitism on campus: report Hillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Controversy on phone records intensifies amid impeachment MORE (Ga.), the committee’s top Republican, called Nadler a hypocrite in response.

To call Johnson arrogant for "expressing his personal beliefs while at the same time hypocritically stating your own beliefs … is the height of hypocrisy,” Collins said.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee largely stayed away from the debate over whether abortion bans should have exceptions for rape or incest.

GOP leaders and President Trump have tried to distance themselves from these laws passed in states like Alabama and Louisiana, saying they support exceptions.

Instead, Republicans on the committee painted Democrats as extreme on abortion and called the Roe decision flawed.

“One person’s reproductive right cannot outweigh another person’s right to live,” Collins said. “As mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, it’s necessary to consider why Roe is a failure of compassion for both women and children.”

The panel heard from several witnesses, including lawyers, doctors, advocates and two women who said they survived failed abortion attempts.

Actress Busy Philipps testified about her decision to get an abortion at age 15, arguing that women deserve the autonomy to make these decisions without interference from politicians.

Her comments prompted a response from Johnson, who said to the activists in the audience that they “owe it to yourself to do your own homework.”

“The question you should ask yourself is why shouldn’t each of these human beings deserve autonomy in a country that calls itself free?” Johnson said.

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertTempers flare at tense Judiciary hearing on impeachment Judiciary hearing gets heated as Democratic counsel interrogates GOP staffer Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas.) also questioned Phillips about how babies that survive abortion attempts should be treated.

“While I play a doctor on television, I am actually not a physician,” she said, prompting laughter from those in the hearing room.