‘Abortion is absolutely a health concern,’ US House panel says as GOP pushes for nationwide ban

Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listens during a House Rules Committee hearing on procedures for upcoming votes at the U.S. Capitol on June 28. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

A national abortion ban would widen health care disparities and increase maternal mortality, especially among black women, doctors and advocates told a U.S. House committee Thursday.

“The advancement of women has always been inextricably linked to the ability to control our own bodies,” Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, told members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee during more than three hours of hearing at the Rayburn House office building.

“Access to abortion is key for women and all who give birth,” Fry continued. “Research shows that restricting abortion impacts the health, safety and well-being of people who are pregnant.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.) introduced a bill that would ban abortions nationwide at the 15th week, replacing state-level restrictions and further fueling the abortion access debate after the Supreme Court’s US in June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Graham’s bill came even as Republican-controlled legislatures across the country sought to impose strict abortion bans, forcing pregnant people to flee across state lines to seek care. Some of Graham’s fellow Republicans distanced themselves from the proposal.

“How do abortion bans disproportionately affect communities of color, who are often left behind?” U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) asked Frye.

“What we really want is for every person, especially black and brown people and people of color, to be able to access the health care they need,” Frye responded. “Abortion bans take the decisions out of their hands. This forces them to rely on systems that have maintained inconsistencies for decades.”

“Who will you be?”

One witness told lawmakers they faced a binary choice on abortion rights.

“Who will you be?” Pittsburgh resident Kelsey Lee asked the panel. “Are you going to sit and judge people who are pregnant without knowing them or their circumstances? Or will you listen…and be the compassion our country so desperately needs right now?”

Lee, who had an abortion at 20 weeks after an ultrasound revealed conditions in her unborn son that she considered “incompatible with life,” and who now works for the Allegheny Center for Reproductive Health in Pittsburgh, where she talks to people seeking abortion care, told lawmakers the facility has been inundated with calls from people in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, which have strict abortion bans.

“We’re the closest clinic for 70 percent of Ohio,” Lehigh told U.S. Rep. Ro Hanna (D-Calif.). “Two-thirds of the people I talk to every day are from Ohio and West Virginia. They arrange rides and babysitting.

“Turning back the clock”

In opening remarks, the panel’s chair, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), argued that Republicans on Capitol Hill and across the country are “turning back the clock on women’s rights,” citing a recent Arizona court decision to restore A 158-year-old law that bans almost all abortions.

“Let it be clear, a law passed more than a century ago, before women had the right to vote,” Maloney said.

Republicans on the House panel have repeatedly charged that majority Democrats are using the hearing to play for votes ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections. They also repeated the false claim that a bill codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law would allow abortion up to birth.

“Let’s be clear about what today’s hearing is about – it’s not about protecting the best interests of women. This is an effort to implement a system of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.). “They do it under the guise of hearings like this to instill fear and achieve their far-left agenda.”

U.S. Rep. Glen Grotman (R-Wis). echoed the sentiment, claiming that “the idea that there is a constitutional right to abortion is not true. We have an era where judges go to law school and find ways to circumvent the constitution. A bill that recently passed the House would make abortion legal until birth. Other countries have bans on this.

A PolitiFact analysis in June called that claim “mostly false.”

The bill “allows abortions up to birth, but only if deemed necessary to protect the life of the patient. It does not specifically require states to keep the procedure legal in all cases after the point of fetal viability,” according to PolitiFact.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) returned to that constitutional argument.

“The Supreme Court has made a decision. That’s actually the problem here. There is a question to be answered: Who should decide? Can the government decide if and when a woman can get pregnant? Or is it a personal health care decision that should be made and left up to the woman, her family, her faith and her doctor?”.

GOP lawmakers also rejected arguments by panel witnesses that safe and legal abortion is a critical component of pregnant people’s self-determination as they try to make the best decision for themselves and their families.

“This extreme bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, will put the United States in the company of countries like China and North Korea,” said U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (RN.C.). “Democrats are the ones taking extreme positions on abortion, and they are against the will of most Americans. It’s one thing to determine what’s going on in your own body. This is another thing [thing] to determine the fate of the unborn child you are carrying.

Ruskin has an affinity for Pennsylvania

Looking across his state line to Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) referenced recent stories about Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who told a radio interviewer in 2019, that the women who violated the six-seventh the prohibition bill he was then sponsoring should be charged with murder.

“They’ve gotten a little more reticent and evasive about wanting to ban abortion anywhere in the country since the people of Kansas rejected the ban,” Raskin said, referring to the August vote in which Kansas voters decisively rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have deprived residents of abortion rights.

“Looks like the cat got their tongue now that they’ve hit the rock. And the rock is women standing up as first-class citizens of America,” Raskin said.

Medical professionals who addressed the House panel Thursday faced repeated questions from GOP lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Jody Hayes (R-Ga.) about whether abortion care can be classified as health care.

“Abortion is not health care. Its purpose is to kill the fetus,” said Dr. Monique Schiro Wubenhorst, an obstetrician-gynecologist, speaking at the behest of committee Republicans.

Dr. Nisha Verma, a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, countered that Wubbenhorst’s view is not the prevailing view among obstetricians and their professional organizations.

“The overwhelming consensus is that abortion is absolutely health care,” Verma said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *