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Senate Considers Abortion-Rights Bill as New Report Spotlights Nationwide Impact of State Laws

Senate Considers Abortion-Rights Bill as New Report Spotlights Nationwide Impact of State Laws

July 15, 2014 — A Senate hearing on Tuesday spotlighted how state laws interfere with women's reproductive rights as lawmakers review a bill (S 1696, HR 3471) designed to block laws that hinder abortion rights, CQ Roll Call reports (Margetta, CQ Roll Call, 7/14).

The hearing comes as a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families finds that many states have enacted antiabortion-rights laws that require physicians to offer care in ways that go against medical standards.

According to the report, 33 states have adopted laws that go against medical evidence and prioritize political beliefs over women's health care, including unnecessary ultrasound requirements, biased counseling, mandatory delays in abortion care and medication abortion restrictions. The report found that 16 states have all four types of laws.

Hearing Details

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on legislation that aims to protect abortion rights. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) were expected to testify (Villacorta, "Pulse," Politico, 7/15).

The bill, called 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 also would prohibit states from banning abortion prior to viability or when a doctor believes that continuing the pregnancy would harm a woman's health.

The bill also would establish guidelines for judges reviewing the constitutionality of states' laws (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/14/13). According to The Hill, the bill has 35 co-sponsors (Viebeck, The Hill, 7/14).

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said that the hearing "show[s] the Senate vividly, dramatically what the practical impacts are of these illegal restrictions that so drastically burden ... women's right to reproductive health care" (CQ Roll Call, 7/14).

Meanwhile, National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias, who was also scheduled to testify at the hearing, said the bill would "impose nationwide the extreme ideological doctrine that elective abortion must not be limited in any meaningful way, at any stage of pregnancy" (The Hill, 7/14).