The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on two anti-abortion bills that seek to prohibit abortion and criminalize physicians. The first bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks—a bill that was already rejected in a procedural Senate vote in September. The second would threaten abortion providers with new criminal penalties of up to five years in jail.
Senator Diane Feinstein, the only woman Senator present at the Committee’s hearing, decried the Committee’s attempts to ban abortion, saying, “Women should be afforded control over their own reproductive systems… This effort, if it is successful, will be to drive women underground away from safe clinics and hospitals and into areas of serious danger.
S. 1553—championed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — would ban abortion after 20-weeks. The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court decision protecting an individual’s right to an abortion before fetal viability. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has already ruled that a 20-week abortion ban in Arizona was unconstitutional; a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand.
The bill would also force rape survivors under 18 years of age seeking abortion care to report the crime to authorities. For survivors over the age of 18, the only option other than reporting the crime to authorities under this restrictive bill is for the woman to seek medical attention or counseling at least 48 hours before their procedure at a location other than where they plan to have their procedure. This requires seeking two separate providers – one for medical attention or counseling and one for an abortion – and is expensive, unrealistic, and overly burdensome.
Abortion rights advocates have been quick to point out the fallacies propping up S. 1553, including the dubious claim of “fetal pain” that has been discredited by scientists and major medical groups like the American Medical Association and British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
S. 2066 would amend a 2002 law to impose criminal penalties on abortion providers who “fail to preserve the life and health” of a fetus “born alive” after an abortion. The bill has been reintroduced repeatedly despite a total lack of evidence that any wrongdoing by providers is occurring across the country. This includes letters from 38 of the state attorneys general and 32 of the health departments in 2013 stating that they have never had cause to prosecute an abortion provider for any acts described in the bill.
The real impact of S. 2066 is to intimidate abortion providers and compromise healthcare for women.
“When doctors are facing complex, urgent medical situations, they need to be able to focus on providing the best treatment for their patients, and not delay as they consider whether their professional judgment will land them in prison,” explained Physicians for Reproductive Health President & CEO Jodi Magee. “In no other area of medicine is this kind of political intrusion into medical care tolerated.”
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 9/23/15; Senate Judiciary Committee 3/15/16; Congress.gov; MSNBC 1/8/15; RH Reality Check 8/21/13; Physicians for Reproductive Health 3/15/16