Abortion wars flare up in Congress

Abortion wars flare up in Congress

Democrats are trying to gain the upper hand in the abortion debate months before an election where President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE is expected to paint the party as being extreme on the issue.

House Democrats are pushing legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, while Senate Republicans are gearing up for a vote on a measure that would ban the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Democrats in the House also expect to vote on a bill that would remove barriers to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, which opponents argue would make it easier to protect access to abortions.

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While none of the measures will pass in a divided Congress, the battles highlight how both sides are trying to get ahead of an issue that will play a role in the race for the White House and control of Congress.

Democrats argue that some of the abortion wars at the state level are now percolating up to Washington.

“They are continuing with the trend that we see in Alabama and Georgia and Missouri in terms of striking down women's right to choose,” said Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Lawmakers of color blast Trump administration for reportedly instructing agencies to end anti-bias training MORE (D-Calif.), referring to abortion bans passed in conservative states.

“And yet the majority of Americans want to protect the right for Americans to choose. So we are following what the wishes of Americans are and that is to be able to uphold this very fundamental right,” she added.

A Gallup poll last year found that 25 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in all cases, 53 percent said it should be permitted in some cases and 21 percent said it should be illegal at all times.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on Wednesday held a hearing on a bill authored by Chu that would codify Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to an abortion and prohibited states from passing pre-viability bans on the procedure.

Democrats and other supporters argue the bill is needed to guard against the Supreme Court potentially overturning or weakening the landmark 1973 decision and letting states set their own abortion laws.

Trump has nominated two justices to the court who anti-abortion advocates see as sympathetic to their cause.

“If indeed the Supreme Court strikes down Roe vs. Wade we definitely need this bill to be in place,” Chu said.
 
In the meantime, the Supreme Court will hear a case next month centered on a Louisiana law that would require doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Supporters of the law say it is intended to protect patients, while opponents counter it is a needless requirement aimed at shutting down abortion clinics.
 
Chu’s bill would block states from passing such restrictions and similar ones such as waiting periods, mandated ultrasounds and bans on abortion before the fetus is able to survive outside the womb.

But Republicans argue Chu's measure would eliminate laws that are meant to benefit women seeking abortions.

“Those are all things I think are reasonable, particularly in many states, the 24-hour waiting period,” said Rep. Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithRep. Dan Meuser tests positive for COVID-19 Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert 'disregarding public health guidance' on COVID-19 Massie plans to donate plasma after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies MORE (R-Va.), adding that when he was an attorney he would advise clients to go home and “sleep on it” before making big decisions.

Democrats and abortion-rights advocates argue such restrictions disproportionately impact poor women and women of color.

It’s not clear if Chu's bill will get a committee vote, but an Energy and Commerce spokesperson noted it has the support of every Democratic member of the committee.

Meanwhile, a bill offered by Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Democrats call for investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds Steph, Ayesha Curry to be recognized by the Congressional Hunger Center MORE (D-Calif.) that would lift the ban on federal funding for abortions has the support of 180 Democrats in the House.

A Democratic aide said Lee is focused on getting more support from the caucus, with the goal of reaching 200 co-sponsors, but it’s too early to say if it will get a vote on the floor. Legislation requires at least 218 votes to pass the House.

Democrats also plan to vote on a resolution Thursday that would remove the 1982 deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would ban discrimination based on sex.

This year, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, reaching the required three-fourths threshold for amending the constitution, but missing the initial deadline by 38 years.

Democrats argue that ratifying the ERA would enshrine women’s rights in the Constitution.

“Our message here today is quite simple: we want in. We want in the Constitution of the United States of America,” said Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (D-Calif.), sponsor of the resolution. "There can be no expiration date on equality.”

Republicans and anti-abortion advocates argue that ratifying the ERA is really about making it easier for women to get abortions.

“In states that have adopted an ERA, it has been used to force taxpayer funding for abortion,” said Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, an anti-abortion group.

“And one need look no further than the vigorous support that radical abortion groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood have put behind the ERA to know it would have disastrous consequences for pro-life laws.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Republicans held a hearing this week on a bill that would require medical care for infants that “survive” abortions.

“I think it is such a tragedy that there is an absence of a federal standard that will specify how babies born alive are going to be treated after surviving an attempted abortion,” said Tennessee Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTaylor Swift on National Voter Registration Day: 'We need everyone' Democrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint Hillicon Valley: Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle | 'Markeyverse' of online fans helps take down a Kennedy | GOP senators unveil bill to update tech liability protections MORE (R).

Opponents argue that survivors of abortion are rare and say the bill is duplicitous of federal law and is merely an attempt to make it harder for women to access abortion later in pregnancy.

The Senate voted last year to block consideration of the bill, 53-44.

The Senate is also expected to vote this month on a bill sponsored by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot MORE (R-S.C.) that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Senate blocked consideration of that bill, 51-46, in 2018.

Trump called on the Senate to vote again on the bill during his State of the Union address last week, raising the stakes of the abortion debate as the 2020 campaigns heat up.

“I’m also calling upon members of Congress here tonight to pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies,” he said. “Whether we are Republican, Democrat, or independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God.”
 
Updated at 3 p.m.