This would be a huge step forward in keeping reproductive choice legal and available.
Following an unprecedented three-year wave of state legislative attacks on abortion and family planning services, a group of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate plan to go on the offensive Wednesday with a historic bill that would make it illegal for states to chip away at women’s reproductive rights.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, joined by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). The bill would prohibit states from passing so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which impose strict and cost-prohibitive building standards on abortion clinics, require women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds, and create other barriers to abortion access.
Blumenthal’s bill wouldn’t automatically overturn states’ existing anti-abortion laws, but because federal law trumps state law, it would provide a means to challenge them in court. The bill would direct judges to consider certain factors in determining whether a restriction is legal, such as whether it interferes with a doctor’s good-faith medical judgment, or whether it’s likely to interfere with or delay women’s access to abortion.
This law would be similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in that is a federal remedy to the various state laws enacted in response to Supreme Court rulings that reproductive rights are constitutionally protected. In the 1950’s certain states in certain parts of the country enacted laws that made it hard for certain people to go to local schools despite the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, eat at the lunch counter at Woolworth’ s despite the 14th amendment, or vote despite the Reconstruction amendments. That’s why we needed the CRA and VRA then, and why we need this law now.
Cue up the “States Rights!” brigade from the Orcosphere. The irony is that Republicans are united in favor of federal laws that restrict rights, i.e. the Defense of Marriage Act and federal regulation of marijuana. But have the feds stand up for the rights of those who are impacted by draconian abortion regulations — and not only women need access to abortion — and all of a sudden the brutish heel of the jack-booted feds is on their neck.
The chances of this passing in the Republican House are slim at best, but it can provide a cudgel to Democrats in elections where they can remind the women in those states that The Party of Smaller Government, More Freedom, and Personal Responsibility wants to control their uterus.