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 NadlerNadler: DOJ directive to Mueller is part of 'ongoing cover up' from Trump administration Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Why are we permitting federal child abuse at our border? 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 Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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 JohnsonWhite House officials defend budget deal amid conservative backlash This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend 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 CollinsPelosi, Democrats launch Mueller messaging blitz Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties 3,100 to be released from prison under criminal justice reform law 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 GohmertJudiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question Gohmert calls Mueller an 'anal opening' ahead of testimony 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.