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Democratic Bill Aims To Combat State Restrictions, Protect Women's Health Access

Democratic Bill Aims To Combat State Restrictions, Protect Women's Health Access

November 13, 2013 — Several House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday will announce new legislation that aims to combat state laws that place medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion, Roll Call's "WGDB" reports.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) will lead the group of lawmakers promoting the bill, known as the Women's Health Protection Act. The bill's backers include Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Barbara Boxer (Cal.); Reps. Judy Chu (Calif.), Lois Frankel (Fla.) and Marcia Fudge (Ohio); and reproductive-rights groups.

According to a summary of the legislation obtained by CQ Roll Call, the bill would pre-empt state laws requiring medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers and women seeking abortion care, as well as set guidelines for federal courts reviewing the constitutionality of state laws that could take effect in the future. For example, the bill stipulates that judges should consider whether a law "is reasonably likely to result in a decrease in the availability of abortion services in the state."

The bill is a response to state laws that restrict abortion, according to "WGDB." Many of the laws have been challenged in court (Lesniewski, "WGDB," Roll Call, 11/12).

According to the Connecticut Mirror's "Political Mirror," the press conference is scheduled for 2:30 and will be streamed on Blumenthal's website (Pazniokas, "Political Mirror," Connecticut Mirror, 11/12).

Sen. Blumenthal's Comments

Blumenthal said the Women's Health Protection Act aims "to provide a clear and certain response to these regulations and [state] laws that impose unnecessary tests, procedures ... and other kinds of restrictions on these reproductive services." He added, "[S]ome measure of certainty and clarity are required to ... ban these regulations and laws so that women are not chilled and deterred in their very personal decisions."

Blumenthal also tied the issue to next year's midterm election. "As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues," adding that the bill, which is "guaranteeing reproductive rights, hopefully will attract increasing support" ("WGDB," Roll Call, 11/12).