January 22, 2015 — Coinciding with this week's anniversary of Roe v. Wade, congressional Democrats on Wednesday reintroduced a measure designed to protect women's access to health care and limit abortion restrictions, The Hill reports (Viebeck, The Hill, 1/21).
Congressional Democrats also introduced the Women's Health Protection Act last session (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/21). However, the new bill is unlikely to get a hearing in the Senate this year because Republicans control the chamber, The Hill reports.
The bill would prohibit state and federal lawmakers from enacting certain restrictions on abortion rights, such as mandatory ultrasounds before abortions, hospital admitting privileges requirements for abortion providers, limits on medication abortion and bans on abortion prior to viability, according to The Hill (Viebeck, The Hill, 1/21).
According Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a lead sponsor of the bill, along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the measure has 33 co-sponsors in the Senate and at least 60 in the House.
Blumenthal during a Wednesday conference call cited several antiabortion-rights bills proposed this year in the House and Senate. "The threat to women's healthcare and reproductive rights is urgent, clear and present," he said, adding, "The threats are real, reprehensive and growing."
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) during the briefing added that the new measure "will finally put [abortion-rights supporters] on the offensive" (Ferris, The Hill, 1/21).
Separately, Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup in a statement said the act "will ensure that every woman in America can exercise her constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion care without interference from the devious tactics of politicians bent on substituting their judgment for hers" (Viebeck, The Hill, 1/21).
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement, "State legislatures shouldn't be in the business of limiting women's reproductive rights." She added that the new legislation, if enacted, "would allow women to make their own personal health care decisions regardless of where they live, and protect the relationship between a woman and her health care provider" (NPWF statement, 1/21).
Abortion-Rights Groups Mark Roe With Efforts To Destigmatize Procedure
In related news, the Roe anniversary is also drawing attention to abortion-rights supporters' efforts to destigmatize abortion, Kaiser Health News reports.
About one-third of U.S. women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, according to KHN. Abortion-rights supporters say that having women share their experiences with others, if they wish to do so, will shed light on the statistic.
For example, Advocates for Youth, a group working to end abortion stigma, has launched the 1 in 3 Campaign to encourage support for abortion and provide women with a safe space to discuss their experience. According to KHN, the effort has collected about 700 abortion stories, hosted an eight-hour "speak out" and inspired a book and a play based on some of the shared stories.
AFY President Deb Hauser said, "We know from the research that the No. 1 predictor of whether or not you say you're pro-choice and vote pro-choice is if you know someone who's had an abortion."
Lindsay Rodriguez at the National Network of Abortion Funds added, "Probably everybody knows somebody who's had an abortion. They just don't know they know somebody who's had an abortion."
Separately, Steph Herold of the Sea Change Program, a group working to destigmatize reproductive topics, said abortion stigma "permeates every aspect of our culture." She added that hospitals might choose not to offer the service not because they oppose abortion-rights, "but because they're afraid of the backlash or anti-abortion protesters" (Rovner, Kaiser Health News, 1/21).