Editor’s note. The following is NRLC President Carol Tobias’s opening statement–and challenge–to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at a public hearing today on the “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 1696)
Mr. Chairman [Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct.], Senator Grassley, and members of the Committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify. I am Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. NRLC is a nationwide federation of 50 affiliated state right-to-life organizations. We are the nation’s oldest and largest pro-life organization.
We find the formal title or marketing label, “Women’s Health Protection Act,” to be highly misleading. The bill is really about just one thing: stripping away from elected lawmakers the ability to provide even the most minimal protections for unborn children, at any stage of their development. The proposal is so sweeping and extreme that it would be difficult to capture its full scope in any short title. Calling it the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act” would be more in line with truth-in-advertising standards.
In its 1980 ruling in Harris v. McRae, upholding the Hyde Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court said:
Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.
Even many Americans who identify as “pro-choice” struggle with the abortion issue, because they see it as a conflict involving life itself. Many, while not fully sharing our view that the unborn child should be directly protected in law, nevertheless support the kinds of laws this bill would strike down; laws that take into account what most Americans recognize as a life-or-death decision.
In contrast, the drafters of S. 1696 apparently believe that any woman considering abortion must be shielded from any information that may cause her to change her mind.
Under S. 1696, elective abortion would become the procedure that must always be facilitated, never delayed, never impeded to the slightest degree.
What types of laws would the bill invalidate? The list includes limits on abortions after 20 weeks – past the point at which unborn children can experience pain – which are supported by sizeable majorities nationwide. Laws limiting abortion after viability. Laws protecting individuals or private medical institutions from being forced to participate in abortion, which about three-fourths of the people support, and which the great majority of states have enacted. Laws requiring that information be provided regarding alternatives to abortion, which 88 percent of the public supported in a Gallup poll. Laws providing periods for reflection. Laws prohibiting abortion because of the child’s sex, which over 85 percent support.
Having failed, in many cases, to persuade the federal courts to strike down the laws they dislike, the extreme abortion advocates now come to Congress and demand that this federal pro-abortion statutory bulldozer be unleashed to scrape everything flat.
The bill would subject any law or government policy that affects the practice of abortion, even indirectly, to an array of sweeping legal tests, designed to guarantee that almost none will survive. The general rule would be that any law that specifically regulates abortion would be presumptively invalid. The same would be true of any law that is not abortion-specific but has the effect or claimed effect of reducing access to abortion.
It is apparent that those who crafted this bill believe that, where abortion is involved, immediate access to abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, is the only thing that matters.
Mr. Chairman, in a November interview with the newspaper Roll Call, you said, “As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues.” But, to know where every senator stands on S. 1696 would require a vote by the full Senate. By all means, let’s see where they stand — but, in the spirit of “pro-choice,” how about giving the Senate a choice as well?
On May 13, Senator Lindsey Graham proposed an agreement under which S. 1696, which has 35 cosponsors, would receive a vote of the full Senate, along with a separate vote on his Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S. 1670, which has 41 cosponsors.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would protect unborn children, in the sixth month and later, with narrow exceptions. By this stage in their development, if not sooner, there is abundant evidence that unborn babies will experience great pain as their arms and legs are wrenched off by brute force in the common second-trimester dismemberment procedure known as D & E.
Mr. Chairman, in your response to Senator Graham’s proposal, you made clear your opposition to his bill. But you went on to say, and I quote, “I am more than happy to cast a vote on it, along with the Women’s Health Protection Act, and I hope they will be considered. This issue deserves to be before this body.”
We agree! We challenge you, and the leadership of the majority party, to allow the American people to see where every senator stands on both of these major abortion-related bills. Let the American people see which bill reflects the values of each member of the United States Senate—life or death for unborn children?
Editor’s note. This also appears at www.nrlc.org/federal/foca/opening-statement-and-challenge-by-nrlc-president-carol-tobias-to-the-u-s-senate-judiciary-committee-july-15-2014-at-a-public-hearing-on-the-womens-health-pro/