Examining the extreme ‘Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013’

The Capitol, decorated with flags for the 2013 Inauguration Ceremony.  Photo Credit: Heidi Miller


In a November 14 e-mail to supporters, Live Action’s communications director, Drew Belsky, devoted a few words to warning about the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013:”

Meanwhile, a group of six senators and House representatives is proposing legislation to unravel every pro-life law passed throughout the nation.  This is Roe v. Wade on steroids.

The link leads to a press release from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is one of the sponsors of this misleading and deceptively titled bill. The senator provides a link to the PDF file of the bill. It is important to view and educate oneself on the bill (which is only 14 pages long) to see how truly extreme, as well as unscientifically based, this bill is.

The bill is problematic from the very beginning. Its first finding reads:

(1) Access to safe, legal abortion services is essential to women’s health and essential to women’s ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the United States.

So, from the start, we see that the premise of this bill is based on a claim for health and equality, but it is actually truly anti-women. Why should women have to turn to abortion, to hide their fertility, in order to participate on an equal level as men? It is a biological fact, and not the fault of pro-lifers, that men’s and women’s bodies come with different reproductive organs with different functions.

Many have rejected this claim that women need abortion in order to be equal to men, or that they need to be like men at all. Teresa Collett, of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, presented her case against abortion from a feminist perspective while speaking at a Law Students for Life event last year. There is also an entire organization, Feminists for Life, dedicated to presenting the pro-life message in such a way.

The bill also denies how pro-life laws can actually help women by saying that these “requirements and restrictions”:

(2) …do not further women’s health or the safety of abortion, but harm women by reducing the availability of services.

It is actually abortion that has been shown to harm women (never mind the unborn children whom successful abortions always kill). Thus, women and their health are protected when abortion is properly regulated. That commonsense safety regulations would cause abortion to be restricted means that there are issues with the safety of abortion, and not so much in the motivation behind the regulation. Regulations also protect women from emotional harm, as abortions have negative mental effects on women as well.

The sponsors of this pro-abortion bill also seem to feel that pro-life bills have had their time in this country, and that we must now turn back to abortion:

(4) Since 2010, there has been an equally dramatic increase in the number of laws and regulations singling out abortion[.] … Congressional action is now necessary to put an end to these restrictions.

For the first time in the bill, the true purpose is mentioned: that some in Congress wish to put an end to pro-life laws. It is also emphasized toward the end of the bill that the intent is to prevent further involvement from the government, state or federal, in regulating abortions.

We then see more inaccuracy:

(5) Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. That safety is furthered by regulations that are based on science and are generally applicable to the medical profession or to medically comparable procedures.

If this bill claims that “… abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States[,] then its sponsors must not have heard of Tonya Reaves, or Jennifer Morbelli, or many other women who have died from legal and so-called “safe” abortion. They must also not have seen Live Action’s “Is it Safe?” investigative project.

And it is rather curious that they would still refer to regulations, despite the very nature of the bill seeking to do away with regulations that have saved women and helped them by further reducing abortions. The bill also does not clarify what kind of safety is being referred to and, in claiming to be safe, neglects to address the emotional side-effects involved for women.

Perhaps most audacious of all, though, is the phrase “medically comparable.” The phrase is used at least five times throughout the bill. Yet the bill never does explain, exactly, what is “medically comparable” to a woman having her child killed and removed from her in, regardless of what the method is, a torturous death.

The bill is rife with ignorance about the purpose of pro-life laws. It also demonstrates that the proponents of this bill have likely not even bothered attempting to understand the laws they are seeking to undo, considering that such laws are in place to regulate abortion in order to make it safer. Emphasis is added:

(6) Many State and local governments are imposing restrictions on the provision of abortion that are neither science-based nor generally applicable to the medical profession or to medically comparable health and safety regulations, many of these abortion-specific restrictions do not advance the safety of abortion services and do nothing to protect women’s health.

Common, but nonetheless inaccurate, assumptions about abortion, and that contraception is the way to reduce them, appear in the bill:

(7) These restrictions harm women’s health by reducing access not only to abortion services but also to the other essential health care services offered by the providers targeted by the restrictions, including contraceptive services, which reduce unintended pregnancies and thus abortions…

Numbers, which actually come from the Guttmacher Institute, formerly Planned Parenthood’s research arm, reveal that 54% of women who were seeking an abortion had already been using contraception.

And Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood, also discussed what she calls a lie on her Facebook page:

Some of you have also bought into the abortion industry’s talking point that birth control reduces abortions. However, that is not what the majority of studies show. When contraception rates rise, abortion rates rise. Makes sense since abortion is the final form of birth control[.]

Those who feel that abortion is best left up for the states to decide will also find this bill problematic with its overreach:

(8) The cumulative effect of these numerous restrictions has been widely varying access to abortion services such that a woman’s ability to exercise her constitutional rights is dependent on the State in which she lives. Federal legislation putting a stop to harmful restrictions throughout the United States is necessary to ensure that women in all States have access to safe abortion services, an essential constitutional right repeatedly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.

The bill not only treats the Roe v. Wade decision as if it were not a badly decided and misunderstood case, but also conflicts with the part of the decision which allows for states to pass laws regulating abortion. In that sense, as bad as Roe v. Wade was for the pro-life movement, making the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013 law would be worse.

Sadly, the bill also uses the Fourteenth Amendment to justify abortion, as the Supreme Court did, even though in actuality it would make much more sense to protect the lives of unborn Americans:

(9) Congress has the authority to protect women’s ability to access abortion services pursuant to…  its powers under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to enforce the provisions of section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The bill’s purpose is then finally stated, once again demonstrating how misguided it is:

(b) PURPOSE.—It is the purpose of this Act to protect women’s health by ensuring that abortion services will continue to be available and that abortion providers are not singled out for medically unwarranted restrictions that harm women by preventing them from accessing safe abortion services.

Included in a list of definitions of the term “pregnancy,” which is incorrectly defined at beginning at “implantation” rather than fertilization:

(5) PREGNANCY.—The term ‘‘pregnancy’’ refers to the period of the human reproductive process beginning with the implantation of a fertilized egg.

And, with regards to discussing those who perform abortions, the bill seems to be too woefully optimistic with regards to them and the idea of “good faith,” a term which does show up more than 0nce in the bill:

(7) VIABILITY.—the term ‘‘viability’’ means the point in a pregnancy at which, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care professional, based on the particular facts of the case before her or him…

Whenever we hear about someone who performs abortions, it is usually not for the best of reasons, as has been the case with Kermit Gosnell, Ann Kristin Neuhaus, LeRoy Carhart, James Pendergraft, and Shelley Sella. The late George Tiller also performed late-term abortions because having to miss rock concerts  or sports was considered a mental “health risk” to the mother. That does not sound like proper “good-faith medical judgment.”

The next section of the bill, “Sec. 4. Prohibited Measures and Actions[,]” outlines more specifically what the bill seeks to prohibit, which include provisions which have already been passed in several states:

(a) GENERAL PROHIBITIONS.—The following limitations or requirements are unlawful and shall not be imposed or applied by any government because they single out the provision of abortion services for restrictions that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures, they do not significantly advance women’s health or the safety of abortion services,and they make abortion services more difficult to access:

These prohibitations include “(1) A requirement that a medical professional perform specific tests or follow specific medical procedures[,]” which Senator Blumenthal, a sponsor of the bill, mentions includes ultrasounds. However, a study showed that 99% of Planned Parenthood clinics already perform ultrasounds before an abortion, which actually are medically necessary for guiding the abortionist. Further, there is “(2) A limitation on an abortion provider’s ability to delegate tasks[,]” (3) the limitation on prescribing or dispensing drugs, and (4) limiting telemed abortions. Planned Parenthood at times, however, will perform chemical abortions with the RU-486 drug against FDA regulations. Continuing: “(5) A requirement or limitation concerning thephysical plant, equipment, staffing, or hospital transfer arrangements of facilities where abortions are performed, or the credentials or hospital privileges or status of personnel at such facilities” and (6) requiring that a woman make one or more “medically unnecessary visits” to an abortion provider, or to anywhere else that provides an abortion. The bill ignores that the reason for doing so and having a waiting period to do so is so that a woman may have time to learn about abortion alternatives and so be able to best consider her options. Finally, there is (7) a requirement or limitation of training for future abortionists. Many abortionists are retiring, and fewer doctors have been willing to perform abortions. Abortionists also face stigma in the medical field.

In discussing “(3) Factors… for a court to consider” should “a measure or action [be] unlawful,” the bill presents its goal as not only to do away with the current pro-life laws, but also to prevent further ones. It also completely fails to accept that abortion access may be limited because the procedure of abortion itself is not safe to women, and that what they are prohibiting will actually help women. A few examples:

(B) Whether the measure or action is reasonably likely to delay some women in accessing abortion services.

(C) Whether the measure or action is reasonably likely to directly or indirectly increase  the cost of providing abortion services or the cost for obtaining abortion services (including costs associated with travel, childcare, or time off work).

(D) Whether the measure or action requires, or is reasonably likely to have the effect of necessitating, a trip to the offices of the abortion provider that would not otherwise be required.

(E) Whether the measure or action is reasonably likely to result in a decrease in the availability of abortion services in the State.

(F) Whether the measure or action imposes criminal or civil penalties that are not imposed on other health care professionals for comparable conduct or failure to act or that are harsher than penalties imposed on other health care professionals for comparable conduct or failure to act.

Such prohibitions of future pro-life laws fail to acknowledge why it may actually benefit women to delay having an abortion. It may also not be the worst outcome for abortion services to decrease. The bill, with (F), also uses that term “comparable” with regards to abortions and abortionists.

The bill next provides for the defending of pro-life laws – for instance, in the state of Texas – and what must be in place in order for such laws to be upheld:

(A) the measure or action significantly advances the safety of abortion services or the health of women; and

(B) the safety of abortion services or the health of women cannot be advanced by a less restrictive alternative measure or action.

The state of Texas has already argued in the courts, successfully as of the most recent decision, that its commonsense state pro-life laws were put into place for the sake of women’s health and safety. If such laws restrict abortion through regulation, then it is because abortion as a procedure is unsafe.

The bill shows how restrictive of pro-life laws it will be when it lists “(c) Other Provisions”:

(1) A prohibition or ban on abortion prior to fetal viability.

(2) A prohibition on abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating physician, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant woman’s life or health.

(3) A restriction that limits a pregnant woman’s ability to obtain an immediate abortion when a health care professional believes, based on her or his good-faith medical judgment, that delay would pose a risk to the woman’s health.

(4) A measure or action that prohibits or restricts a woman from obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability based on her reasons or perceived reasons or that requires a woman to state her reasons before obtaining an abortion prior to fetal viability.

Prohibiting or banning abortion would immediately throw out Arkansas’s 12-week abortion ban prohibiting an abortion if a heartbeat is detected, though the ban has been halted. The bill would also prevent the enforcement of 20-week abortion bans, which are based upon fetal pain, as well as to protect the mother, which the state of Arizona recognized with the Women’s Health and Safety Act. Bans on abortion after 20 weeks also enjoy public support in polls.

The bill also once again refers to the “good-faith medical judgment” of abortionists, who, considering the nature of the procedures they willingly perform, have not always shown the best “good-faith medical judgment.”

There is also the mandate that all states include a “health of the mother” provision, which, as the Court has shown, could include anything the mother and the abortion provider want.

The end of the bill recapitulates the writers’ intention to effectively end all pro-life efforts that have become law:

(b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize any government to interfere with a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy, to diminish or in any way negatively affect a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy, or to displace any other remedy for violations of the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The Court already incorrectly interpreted the Constitution to include the right to an abortion based on a right to privacy. This bill represents an even more egregious overreach on top of an already overreaching court case, which pro-choicers have never been able to stop having to defend, and pro-lifers have never stopped fighting against.

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