Democrats accusing Republicans of abortion extremism had the charge thrown back in their faces at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would lift virtually all limits on pregnancy termination.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and the panel chairman, said the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson replaced “controversy with chaos” as state laws shift in reaction to the decision.
He said this creates a need for federal legislation to “restore abortion access across America.”
“Instead of ending the debate on abortion, Dobbs was really the beginning of a different debate: How far will the war on women’s health go before we say enough is enough?” he asked at the Wednesday hearing titled “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America.”
The legislation would outlaw a slew of restrictions on abortion pre-viability, or about 24 weeks’ gestation, and permit post-viability abortions to “protect the life or health of the patient,” which typically includes mental health.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called the bill “barbaric,” saying it would put U.S. policy in line with that of China, Iran and North Korea as opposed to Europe, where 47 of 50 nations limit most abortions to 15 weeks’ gestation or less.
“After Dobbs, our Democratic friends are basically declaring war on the unborn,” said Mr. Graham, the panel’s ranking Republican.
He said he plans to reintroduce his legislation to place a 15-week gestational limit on abortions except in the cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother, calling it a “national minimum standard.”
“Two-thirds of Americans believe abortion should be limited after the first three months, and our friends on the other side have the Women’s Health Protection Act, which has really no limits on abortion,” said Mr. Graham. “There is a health-care exception after viability that is no exception at all.”
The most powerful testimony came from Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who was prevented from getting a pre-viability abortion in August after her cervix dilated prematurely. She said she was forced to wait three days and went into septic shock before delivering a stillborn daughter.
“I wasn’t permitted to have an abortion. And the trauma and the PTSD and the depression that I have dealt with in the eight months since this happened to me is paralyzing,” said Ms. Zurawski, who has sued Texas over its laws banning most abortions.
She referred to Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both of whom sit on the committee but were not in the room for her later comments.
“What happened to me I think most people would agree was horrific, but it’s a direct result of the policies they support,” Ms. Zurawski said. “I nearly died on their watch.”
Dr. Ingrid Skop, a pro-life obstetrician-gynecologist based in San Antonio, said Ms. Zurawski’s doctors “misunderstood Texas law,” saying that under the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ standard of care, they should have immediately sought to end the pregnancy.
“They tell us at the time of diagnosis that we should offer immediate termination of pregnancy, which they define as induction, or dilation-and-evacuation abortion, or expectant management,” Dr. Skop said.
That standard remains in place in every state, she said, even those with tight abortion restrictions.
“Every single law allows an exclusion for a doctor to use their reasonable medical judgment to determine when to intervene in a medical emergency, which is usually defined as a threat to the life of the mother or permanent irreversible damage to an organ or an organ system,” Dr. Skop said.
She added that “none of the states have the terminology that the threat must be immediate.”
What’s unreasonable is to allow abortion on demand up to the moment of birth. That’s exactly what your bill does. We want to have America in line with the civilized world – not North Korea and China.@LindseyGrahamSC
— SBA Pro-Life America (@sbaprolife) April 26, 2023
Democrats also blasted the Supreme Court for its decision in Dobbs.
Mr. Durbin said the “right-wing majority overruled five decades of legal precedent,” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, accused conservative justices of being “disingenuous” in their confirmation hearings.
“Their concluding as they did in Dobbs that Roe v. Wade was wrong, with barely a few years after they established their respect for it, I think has helped undermine the integrity and credibility of the court,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, responded that “sometimes the court corrects prior errors.”
“That is what occurred with Dobbs. Dobbs corrected a prior error,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s difficult to endure hearing people say they’re worried about the credibility of the court when sometimes those words are uttered by people who are themselves actively, willfully, deliberately attacking the credibility of the court.”
Mr. Cornyn made the point that federal legislation has almost no chance of passage, calling it “highly unlikely there will be a federal abortion standard.”
“It requires 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, and as you can see, this is a very divisive issue,” he said.