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Hearings on S. 1696: The Planned Parenthood Protection Act

Undermining 40 years of abortion regulation in one easy bill.

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July 17, 2014
Hearings on S. 1696--the Planned PArenthood Protection Act Senate Democrats
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on S.1696, the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) last November. The bill, more aptly called the “Planned Parenthood and Kermit Gosnell-Wannabes Protection Act of 2013,” has a whopping 35 co-sponsors (one socialist and 34 Dems).

The hearing raised a lot of questions, but foremost is this one: How do people like this get elected to Congress, to represent Americans?

By supporting S.1696, they subscribe to the belief that the Holy Grail of abortion access trumps the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, the foundational Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, forty years of Supreme Court abortion precedent and the will of the majority of the American people … not to mention women’s health and babies’ lives.

Thomas Messner has provided an exhaustive legal and policy analysis of Sen. Blumenthal’s bill, so we needn’t go too deeply into the weeds. But with 36 supporters in the Senate and 135 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3471), Americans need to know something about this latest attempt to pass a version of the Freedom of Choice Act. And we need to let our Members of Congress know how we feel about the co-sponsors’ goal of Abortion Über Alles and their naked attempt to usurp powers delegated to the Court and to the states.

The Pro-Life Genesis of S.1696

As Americans increasingly have become pro-life (due to the ubiquity of prenatal ultrasounds, greater knowledge of the suffering many women experience after abortion and the exposure of inhumane practices in abortion clinics, inter alia), they’ve elected state legislators and governors who represent their beliefs. A Guttmacher Institute Policy Review states: “More state abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011-2013 than in the entire previous decade.” The review cites 189 “restrictions” enacted in the decade 2001 - 2010, compared to 205 in the 3-year period 2011-2013. The authors also note than more than half of the states in the U.S. “were classified as hostile to abortion rights,” for having enacted four or more regulations affecting abortion.

What is the nature of these state “restrictions” and how do people feel about them?

The Guttmacher Institute’s “State Policies in Brief” (July 1, 2014) lists the common state abortion regulations. A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll released in January 2014 offers the latest public opinions on abortion regulation. Their findings follow.

Guttmacher:  39 states require abortions to be performed by a licensed physician
Americans:  76% oppose letting abortions be performed by non-doctors

Guttmacher:  42 states prohibit abortions at later gestational ages (most often after fetal viability) except when the mother’s life or “health” is at risk (“Health” was broadly defined in Roe’s companion case as “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.”).

Americans: 74% favor a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, except to save the mother’s life. And 84% of Americans favor stronger limits on abortion, permitting it only (a) in the first three months of pregnancy (28%), (b) only when the pregnancy results from rape or incest or to save the mother’s life (33%), (c) only when needed to save the mother’s life (12%), or (d) under no circumstances (11%).

Guttmacher:  26 states require waiting periods, usually of 24 hours
Americans:  79% support a 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion

Guttmacher:  38 states require some type of parental involvement (notification or consent, with judicial bypass)
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday on S.1696, the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013,” introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) last November. The bill, more aptly called the “Planned Parenthood and Kermit Gosnell-Wannabes Protection Act of 2013,” has a whopping 35 co-sponsors (one socialist and 34 Dems).

The hearing raised a lot of questions, but foremost is this one: How do people like this get elected to Congress, to represent Americans?

By supporting S.1696, they subscribe to the belief that the Holy Grail of abortion access trumps the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, the foundational Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, forty years of Supreme Court abortion precedent and the will of the majority of the American people … not to mention women’s health and babies’ lives.

Thomas Messner has provided an exhaustive legal and policy analysis of Sen. Blumenthal’s bill, so we needn’t go too deeply into the weeds. But with 36 supporters in the Senate and 135 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3471), Americans need to know something about this latest attempt to pass a version of the Freedom of Choice Act. And we need to let our Members of Congress know how we feel about the co-sponsors’ goal of Abortion Über Alles and their naked attempt to usurp powers delegated to the Court and to the states.

The Pro-Life Genesis of S.1696

As Americans increasingly have become pro-life (due to the ubiquity of prenatal ultrasounds, greater knowledge of the suffering many women experience after abortion and the exposure of inhumane practices in abortion clinics, inter alia), they’ve elected state legislators and governors who represent their beliefs. A Guttmacher Institute Policy Review states: “More state abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011-2013 than in the entire previous decade.” The review cites 189 “restrictions” enacted in the decade 2001 - 2010, compared to 205 in the 3-year period 2011-2013. The authors also note than more than half of the states in the U.S. “were classified as hostile to abortion rights,” for having enacted four or more regulations affecting abortion.

What is the nature of these state “restrictions” and how do people feel about them?

The Guttmacher Institute’s “State Policies in Brief” (July 1, 2014) lists the common state abortion regulations. A Knights of Columbus/Marist poll released in January 2014 offers the latest public opinions on abortion regulation. Their findings follow.

Guttmacher:  39 states require abortions to be performed by a licensed physician
Americans:  76% oppose letting abortions be performed by non-doctors

Guttmacher:  42 states prohibit abortions at later gestational ages (most often after fetal viability) except when the mother’s life or “health” is at risk (“Health” was broadly defined in Roe’s companion case as “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.”).

Americans: 74% favor a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, except to save the mother’s life. And 84% of Americans favor stronger limits on abortion, permitting it only (a) in the first three months of pregnancy (28%), (b) only when the pregnancy results from rape or incest or to save the mother’s life (33%), (c) only when needed to save the mother’s life (12%), or (d) under no circumstances (11%).

Guttmacher:  26 states require waiting periods, usually of 24 hours
Americans:  79% support a 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion

Guttmacher:  38 states require some type of parental involvement (notification or consent, with judicial bypass)

Americans:  80% support parental notification before their minor child can have an abortion

What S.1696 would accomplish if enacted

Generally speaking, the bill would effectively nullify laws and regulations at every level of government. A broad range of laws would become unenforceable, or in practice unenforceable, due to the extremely high burden of proof the law imposes: The government would have to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the regulation “significantly” advances the safety of abortion practice or the health of women in the least restrictive way possible.

In his report for the Lozier Institute, Thomas Messner lists the following laws as being invalidated or jeopardized by S.1696:

Bans on late term abortions
Bans on sex selection abortions
Bans on non-physicians performing abortions
Clinic health and safety regulations
Prohibitions on taxpayer funding of abortion and of abortion training
Health and safety regulations governing the use of abortion-inducing drugs
Sonogram or fetal heartbeat test requirements
Mandatory waiting periods
State and federal conscience protections

The bill excludes only laws related to parental notice, access to clinic entrances, insurance coverage and partial-birth abortion.

Nearly all of these state and federal laws have been litigated in the Supreme Court and found to be constitutional, but these members of Congress are prepared to usurp the role of the Supreme Court and establish entirely new tests of constitutionality.

The “good faith medical judgment” of the abortion provider is now the touchstone for deciding if any measure or action “interferes” with his or her ability to provide abortions. Anything that causes even a slight delay in obtaining abortion, anything that increases the provider’s costs--like, for example, hiring competent staff, keeping the clinic free of filth, not reusing the same bloody instruments on patients without sterilizing them first--or the costs to women (including the cost of travel, childcare and time off from work), or anything that could decrease the availability of abortion services is prima facie verboten.

What’s really in the interest of women’s health

It was surreal to hear the pro-abortion panelists speak as if women’s health involved nothing more or less than abortion access. But no matter how often they claim that abortion is a “safe” medical procedure, the short-term complications and long-term health risks of abortion are well documented in the literature. Donna Harrison, MD, past President of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has made available her powerpoint presentation “After the Choice: Abortion Sequelae in the Medical Literature” (can be accessed by Googling the title).

Short-term complications include the following: “retained products of conception, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, cervical laceration, missed ectopic pregnancy.”

Long term complications include subsequent preterm birth (including placenta previa), adverse psychological outcomes and increased risk of breast cancer among others.

A Finnish study of 42, 619 women comparing the immediate complications of RU-486 abortion and surgical abortion found:
“The overall incidence of adverse events was fourfold higher in the medical compared with surgical abortion cohort (20.0% compared with 5.6%…). Hemorrhage (15.6% compared with 2.1% …) and incomplete abortion (6.7% compared with 1.6% …) were more common after medical abortion. The rate of surgical (re)evacuation was 5.9% after medical abortion and 1.8% after surgical abortion (P<.001). Although rare, injuries requiring operative treatment or operative complications occurred more often with surgical termination of pregnancy (0.6% compared with 0.03%, P<.001). No differences were noted in the incidence of infections (1.7% compared with 1.7%, P=.85), thromboembolic disease, psychiatric morbidity, or death.”

The incidence of immediate adverse events may seem miniscule in a population of 100 or 1,000 women, but in a population of one million, representing annual U.S. abortions (hypothetically assigning half of the women to the RU-486 group and half to the surgical abortion group), we would find—

Number of Women Harmed in 500,000 RU-486  & Surgical ABs

Overall Incidence of Adverse Events      100,000      28,000
Hemorrhage                                          78,000      10,500
Incomplete Abortion                               33,500       8,000
Surgical re-evacuation                            29,500       9,000
Operative injuries                                       150       3,000
Infections                                                8,500       8,500
 
An “Analysis of Severe Adverse Events Related to the Use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient” examined the first 607 RU-486 related adverse event reports (AERs)received by the FDA following approval of RU-486 abortions. The AERs revealed the following: six deaths, 237 hemorrhages (of which 42 were life-threatening and 68 required transfusions), 7 cases of septic shock, 235 emergent surgeries and 17 unrecognized, potentially fatal, ectopic pregnancies.

A registry-linked study of suicides after pregnancy events (miscarriage, birth, abortion) in Finland found that women who aborted were four times more likely to commit suicide in the 12 months following an abortion than were women in the general population and almost six times more likely to commit suicide compared to women who had given birth in the preceding 12 months.

Does all that make abortion sound like a boon to women’s health?

Are there other reasons why tough abortion regulations are needed to further women’s health?

Before Kermit Gosnell and his Philadelphia “house of horrors” abortion clinic became common knowledge, state inspections of abortion facilities were rare and lurid findings were even more rarely publicized. A 17-page annotated synopsis of numerous instances of abortion industry negligence and criminality is by no means exhaustive.

The Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart and elsewhere recognized that “the government has a legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life” (Slip opinion, 14). That interest is nowhere recognized in S.1696. And it’s obvious that women’s health is not enhanced by having an abortion. Rather, the paramount interest of this legislation is only to preserve and promote the interests of the abortion providers.

Susan E. Wills is Spirituality Editor for Aleteia’s English edition.
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