Today the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on U.S. Senate Bill 1696.
Cynically titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” S. 1696 currently has 35 Senate co-sponsors. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the pro-abortion measure last November.
S. 1696 is bad policy. It would make it harder when not impossible for states to enforce measures that protect women as well as unborn children.
In provision after provision S. 1696 puts not a thumb but a fist on the scales in favor of abortion providers and against both unborn children and mothers who face the fear and uncertainty of unexpected pregnancy.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute recently published my extended legal analysis of S. 1696. As that analysis explains, the potential scope and impact of S. 1696 are enormous.
S. 1696 would trump State 20-week laws in a very large percentage of cases. S. 1696 would create a special protection in federal law for sex-selection abortion as well as abortions performed for the reason of the child’s race or disability. S. 1696 would jeopardize laws limiting performance of abortion to licensed physicians.
In addition, S. 1696 would authorize federal court attacks on abortion clinic health and safety standards that protect women. S. 1696 would endanger meaningful limits on late abortion. S. 1696 would threaten laws requiring a mother to be provided an opportunity to view a sonogram and hear the heartbeat of her unborn child before choosing abortion.
On top of that, S. 1696 would jeopardize well-established policies prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion. And to boot, S. 1696 could be interpreted to trump state and federal conscience protections.
In a word, S. 1696 is extreme.
S. 1696 Is Ideological.
S. 1696 styles itself as a response to abortion regulations and standards that are not “science-based.” But unlike the national 20-week bill passed last year by the House, which contains extensive detailed references to medical research, S. 1696 is heavy on assertion and easy on evidence.
What’s more, several provisions of S. 1696 demonstrate that the bill is not “science-based” itself.
S. 1696 prohibits the government from imposing a limitation on the ability of an abortionist to prescribe or dispense drugs based on his “good-faith medical judgment” if the limitation isn’t imposed on the medical profession generally. This prohibition treats all drugs the same as abortion drugs. That’s ideology, not science.
Without providing any concrete examples, S. 1696 repeatedly refers to procedures that are “medically comparable” to abortion. But the U.S. Supreme Court has described abortion as a “unique act” and “inherently different” from other medical procedures. Only ideology leads someone to equate taking drugs that end a human life with popping a Vicodin.
The gruesome, dangerous, and dehumanizing conditions present at too many abortion clinics, as well as the scary incompetence, negligence, or disregard of some abortionists, have been well documented. Yet S. 1696 would make it harder for states to enforce standards that govern the qualifications of abortionists and the health and safety of abortion clinics. That’s ideology, not reason.
S. 1696 Is Biased.
S. 1696 targets laws that “single out” abortion. But in so doing S. 1696 actually “singles out” the abortion industry for special protection in federal law.
S. 1696 is wholeheartedly devoted to making abortion quicker, cheaper, and more convenient. The analyst strains to identify any meaningful preference given by the bill to the interests of unborn children who lose their lives in abortion.
Some commentators might observe that the bill doesn’t expressly require unchecked elective abortion until birth. But it threatens meaningful limits on late abortion through provisions including an undefined “health” exception that would likely produce more or less the same effect.
S. 1696 is geared against standards that protect women from unmonitored and inadequate abortion clinics as well as under-certified abortion profiteers. S. 1696 even jeopardizes informed-consent laws that protect women from (to use words from the plurality opinion in Casey) the potentially “devastating psychological consequences” of realizing after abortion that their choice “was not fully informed.” All this in a bill titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”
– Thomas M. Messner is a legal policy fellow at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.