A group of Democrats in the House and the Senate are responding to a “cascading wave of restrictions” to abortion access across the United States through the Women's Health Protection Act of 2013. The legislation aims to address precisely the types of legislation currently passing around the country to restrict access to reproductive healthcare, including TRAP laws such as the licensing requirements included in the omnibus abortion bill passed in Texas this summer.
Though the bill would not nullify abortion restrictions passed at the state level, it would create the basis for judicial challenges to such laws.
More on the Women's Health Protection Act of 2013 below the jump.Just last week, Senator Lindsay Graham introduced a federal 20 week abortion ban, citing the importance of the issue in the 2014 midterm elections. “The goal is to have a vote in 2014, to make sure we vote on it,” Graham said. “It's worth having this debate. The more people understand what we're trying to do, the more public support will grow over time.”
As the struggle for access to reproductive healthcare continues, Democrats in Congress such as Senators Blumenthal, Boxer, and Baldwin, along with Representatives Fudge, Chu, and Frankel hope to define themselves against the last three years of anti-choice legislation across the country. As Senator Blumenthal said,
In states like Texas and Wisconsin, legislatures are passing bills with the false pretext of protecting health when their only objective is to obstruct and curtail access to safe and legal abortions and reproductive services. These laws are largely unconstitutional, and some measure of certainty and clarity is required to preempt these regulations and laws so women are not deterred in their very personal decisions based on their own values on how they want to use their constitutional rights. The Women's Health Protection Act will provide a clear and certain response to these regulations and laws that impose unnecessary tests, procedures and restrictions – including requirements for physical layout in clinics – on reproductive services.
As the fate of Texas' own HB 2 continues to unfold in the courts, Texan women have a key interest in the future of legislation such as the Women's Health Protection Act. Though judicial action is already an avenue to challenge such a law, the WHPA seeks to create a more streamlined approach: “These laws should be challenged in court because they are largely unconstitutional,” Blumenthal stated, “but some measure of certainty and clarity are required to ban these regulations and laws so that women are not chilled and deterred in their very personal decisions.”
Blumenthal believes that a vote on the Women's Health Protection Act could be a boon for Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections. “As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues,” said Blumenthal. “The Women's Health Protection Act, guaranteeing reproductive rights, hopefully will attract increasing support.”
Though it has a chance in the Senate, the Republican controlled House leads to little hope for this legislation in the long run. However, such public support at the federal level for creating standards to protect women's righst to access abortion services above and beyond the legal protections provided for in Roe v. Wade is a promising shift towards a Democratic party more willing to vocally support abortion access as an aspect of reproductive healthcare.