Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 2, 2015

Senate Abortion Rights Backers Want to Pre-empt State Laws

Abortion rights activists demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court in January. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Abortion rights activists demonstrated in front of the Supreme Court in January. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats are planning the next round in the decades-old exchange over abortion politics Wednesday.

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate, led by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut on the Senate side, are calling an afternoon news conference to roll out a new measure that would effectively pre-empt state laws requiring medically unnecessary tests before receiving reproductive health services, including the morning-after pill and abortions.

“This kind of measure seems to provide a clear and certain response to these regulations and [state] laws that impose unnecessary tests, procedures … and other kinds of restrictions on these reproductive services,” Blumenthal said, calling the influx of new state laws a “cascading wave of restrictions.”

Blumenthal will be joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Barbara Boxer of California, as well as Reps. Judy Chu of California, Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio and Lois Frankel of Florida. That group will be accompanied by several abortion rights advocacy representatives.

According to a summary of the measure obtained by CQ Roll Call, it would set markers for federal courts reviewing state laws that may take effect in the future, as could be the case when conservative majorities take control of state Capitols.

Factors for judges to consider in those circumstances include: “whether the measure or action is reasonably likely to result in a decrease in the availability of abortion services in the state.”

The bill is a direct response to efforts in several states to establish new rules for accessing abortions, including the ultrasound laws in several states. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case out of Oklahoma about an ultrasound requirement in that state. That’s one of several similar cases that the court could hear.

“These laws should be challenged in court because they are largely unconstitutional, but some measure of certainty and clarity are required to — to ban these regulations and laws so that women are not chilled and deterred in their very personal decisions,” Blumenthal said.

During a brief interview, Blumenthal suggested that supporters may want to see votes on the social policy issue in advance of the midterm elections next year.

“As the election approaches, I think the voters are going to want to know where legislators stand on these issues,” he said. “The Women’s Health Protection Act, guaranteeing reproductive rights, hopefully will attract increasing support.”

Abortion foes may also seek votes on their favored proposals, of course. Last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., filed legislation of his own, leading a GOP-backed effort to prohibit abortions past 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

“The question for the American people is, ‘Should we be silent when it comes to protecting these unborn children entering the sixth month of pregnancy? Or is it incumbent on us to speak up and act on their behalf?'” Graham said announcing his effort. “I say we must speak up and act.”

Graham’s proposal passed the GOP-led House earlier this year with 228 votes in support.

Several Senate Democrats took to the floor to rebut Graham just as he was getting set to hold a news conference unveiling that measure, saying no such proposal would come before the Senate on their watch. That group included Democrats Patty Murray of Washington, as well as Boxer and Blumenthal.

“We are here today to make one thing abundantly clear: and that is that this extreme, unconstitutional abortion ban is an absolute non-starter. It’s going nowhere in the Senate and Republicans know it,” Murray said of Graham’s bill.

  • teapartyidiots

    Pandering season has begun. On both sides.

  • wttexas

    No,,,regulation from afar is not in touch with anything,I think there was a revolution over a similar issue,some 200yrs ago,,,States need much of the authority that now resides in Washington,,standards will be realistic,costs will come down,next,,beware the fed,who knows what he may outsource …

  • Correctamundo

    Why not abolish the 10th Amendment and be done with it?

    • ThomasD

      Unnecessary as everyone in DC simply ignores it anyway.

      • Correctamundo

        True dat.

  • zaggs

    Why don’t the democrats just pass the Boxer Standards for Neonatal disposal so all women can chop up their babies even after they are delivered after 9 months but before the take them home?
    Plus they could tack on outlawing adoption. I mean its the only birth outcome they’ve made rare.

  • bdelsol

    why aren’t we fighting for a woman’s right to choose after birth? after all, science tells us that all humans are born “prematurely” — the external fetus’ skull is soft, it can barely see, can’t take care of itself, is completely helpless, can only lay on its back, and with great effort and practice eventually roll over. so we should be able to extend the period of a woman’s right to choose to well after birth, since it remains a fetus till probably around two or three. during that time, a woman can determine whether the fetus’ intrusion on her career and lifestyle is too much, whether she needs to take her life back, and whether she wants the fetus to be considered a baby. for us to avoid a war on women, we must only consider the situation from a woman’s pov — not the father’s, never the child’s (I mean, fetus’).

  • jr565

    And gun rights advocates are the extremists? The right to bear arms is an enumerated right that shall not be infringed. And yet we have restrictions. Abortion is not in the constitution at all except as a penumbra, and yet these people want no restrictions at all.

  • ThomasD

    IOW Senate Democrats seek to usurp State rights to regulate the practice of medicine.

    Is Federal licensing of practitioners far off?

  • SteveAR

    So what these Democrats want is to make sure the back-alley abortions done by Gosnell-like abortionists won’t be encumbered by what these Democrats would call silly, like inspections, or certification, or really any law or regulation. Got it.

    • Fen

      Yup. The largest unregulated industry in america is the abortion industry.

  • sciencebob

    Murder is just really late term abortion. Just kill the protesters and make life better for the rest of us.

  • Mary123s

    I’m pro choice, but this has nothing to do with women. this has everything to do with the 2014 elections, with the Dems petrified that O-Care will cost them their jobs in the House and possibly the Senate. While they are right about these restriction are about circumventing Roe, they are scaring up women with these acts as a last ditch effort to save their financial bacon.

    • Fen

      “Vote with your lady parts!”

      “The Republicans want to rape you with a coat hanger”

      Dems must think women are really stupid to fall for that.

      • onlyabill

        Well if recent electorial history is any indication…

  • Fen

    “The Women’s Health Protection Act, guaranteeing reproductive rights…”

    Because men don’t need reproductive rights, right? I mean, its not like we have a reproductive system or anything….

    How about giving us financial rights? Women don’t want to raise the child so they kill it. We don’t want to raise the child but are forced to, at least financially for the next 18 years.

    • onlyabill

      That is because “shut up”!

  • boyd2

    We clearly are in danger of not killing babies fast enough. Dems see this and take action. They and their backers must be proud.

  • Fen

    The should change their signs to:

    “We need sex so bad we’re willing to kill for it”

  • ib1netmon


    2 hours ago

    And gun rights advocates are
    the extremists? The right to bear arms is an enumerated right that shall
    not be infringed. And yet we have restrictions. Abortion is not in the
    constitution at all except as a penumbra, and yet these people want no
    restrictions at all.”

    And all these years I thought it was in the emanations.

  • hurtin1

    I’m far from an abortion extremist, but the federal government has no place and no grounds for this nonsense. The states’ laws inhibiting abortion are preempted because the Supreme Court decided in Roe that the Constitution preempts them. The federal government has no voice in the matter.

    Given that the law has no force (and Democrats know this) and no chance of passing the House or even the Senate (and Democrats know this), that means its real purpose is to put abortion arguments on the front pages instead of the collapse of Obamacare. Or the economy – you know, that thing Democrats complained was being ignored 10 years ago in favor of stupid cultural issues.

  • Fen

    People’s Rights for all! [except for those we declare “unpersons”]

    How do you maintain such irony without your brain exploding?

    Or has it already?

    • kernals

      if a fetus is life, what about eggs and sperm?

      • richard40

        Eggs and sperm do not have full unique human DNA. But once the egg is fertalized and implanted, the argument gets much better. And once we see what looks like a fully formed baby, with heartbeat, brain activity, and motor activity, it gets better yet. At the very least, I say once you have human DNA, and measurable brain activity, you have human life, which would occur around 3 months.

      • Fen

        Did you seriously just ask if eggs and sperm are a lifeform?

  • papal

    “A group of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate, led by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut”
    That about says it all. Led by a liar who claim he was in combat and never was and the morons of Conneticut elected him. He should have been aborted because we already have enough liars.

  • ToursLepantoVienna

    I demand compulsory abortion. All these half-measures just perpetuate the patriarchy.

  • richard40

    I oppose both the repub and dem bills. Follow the constitutional principle of federalism and leave these matters to the states.

  • ankita soni

    Well they are doing right thing. It helps society to get right thing in their life.

    Obgen el camino

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