November 14, 2013 — On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and several other Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation (S 1696, HR 3471) that would prohibit laws that unduly impose restrictions on abortion rights, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Shabad, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/13).
The Women's Health Protection Act would prevent states from imposing restrictions on abortion providers "that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures." It would also prohibit states from banning abortion prior to viability or if a doctor believes that continuing the pregnancy would harm a woman's health (Eaton, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/13).
The bill also would establish guidelines for judges reviewing the constitutionality of states laws. For example, it stipulates that judges should consider whether a law "is reasonably likely to result in a decrease of the availability of abortion services in the state" (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/13).
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the bill aims to "codify Roe v. Wade ... so that we don't have to fight these battles state by state by state."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Senate version had 29 co-sponsors and the House bill had 53 ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/13).
The bill's sponsors have acknowledged that the legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House. Nonetheless, Blumenthal said the bill would "send a message to state legislatures that the epidemic of measures that restrict women's health care will not be tolerated."
Blumenthal added that the issue would be significant in upcoming elections and that voters will want to know where lawmakers stand.
National Right to Life Committee Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said the bill is a "radical" measure that would bar any restrictions on abortion. "The whole premise of this bill is that abortion has to be treated just like any other medical service, like a flu shot, but that is not a premise that many people agree with," he said (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/13).