Playing Politics with Women’s Health: U.S. Senator Pits Women’s Health Protection Act Against Nationwide Abortion Ban

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to try to force a vote on his unconstitutional, nationwide abortion ban and cynically pit this measure against the Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit politicians from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

Senator Graham’s move will attempt to leapfrog other matters before the Senate, with no prior debate or committee consideration, to advance his bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the U.S. performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy with only extremely narrow exceptions to save a pregnant woman’s life and in cases of rape or incest that have been reported to legal authorities.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

"In the midst of a national crisis for reproductive health care, the choice before Congress is clear. They must advance federal legislation that would truly defend women's well-being, safety, and rights, not political attacks that can only worsen the dangerous circumstances that millions of women nationwide now face.

"The Women's Health Protection Act would ensure access to safe, legal, high-quality care for women facing the often complicated personal decision to end a pregnancy, while the legislative attacks of Senator Graham and his allies put women at risk of grave harm.

"By impeding women's access to caring, reputable health care providers, these measures would drive women in desperate circumstances to unscrupulous, unsafe, unregulated back-alley providers whose shady practices could cost them their lives."

The Women's Health Protection Act, which now has nearly 150 Senate and House cosponsors, is designed to enforce and protect access to safe, legal abortion care for all women in the U.S. under a framework of limits and regulations as recognized by Roe v. Wade and supported by seven in 10 Americans. 

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of life-threatening fetal abnormalities.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans. And in March 2014, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar measure, stating that the bill was unconstitutional and “unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship.”