Democrats in the US Senate condemn restrictions on access to abortion, Democrats in the House of Representatives present a contraception bill

WASHINGTON — The nationwide debate over whether the law or patients should determine access to abortion dominated a U.S. Senate committee hearing Tuesday as a panel of six experts testified about the sophisticated nature of treating pregnancies and miscarriages.

The two-hour hearing of the Health, Education, Work and Pensions Committee was at times candid and candid. At other times, he focused on issues of debate that Democrats and Republicans have been reiterating since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion two years ago.

The hearing is just one element of Democrats’ growing interest in reproductive rights issues, including access to abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization, ahead of the November election. On Wednesday, senators will vote on the adoption of legislation regarding the right to contraception.

Democratic Washington Sen. Patty Murray said during the hearing that restrictions and bans on abortion access in some states have deprived women of the chance to make private choices about health care as well as family size.

“With this policy, they told women in no uncertain terms: ‘You don’t control your body, we do.’ It’s terrifying,” Murray said.

“Think about what it means, what it really means, to be told that someone else may decide that you need to stay pregnant, no matter what,” Murray said. “Think how little power this gives a woman over her own life and health.”

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, a ranking member of the committee, argued that the hearing was intended to highlight differences between the GOP and Democrats in a presidential election year rather than real interest in the state of reproductive health care.

“So let’s come to the table: This is an election year in which the Democratic incumbent president is behind. So the decision was made to publicize the abortion, change the scenery and invite many people to show us on TV,” he said. “Partisan politics are being played out during committee hearings.”

Doctors or politicians?

Dr. Nisha Verma, an associate at Physicians for Reproductive Health in Atlanta, testified that the complicated nature of pregnancies – including those that end in miscarriage, endanger the woman’s life or health or involve the diagnosis of a fatal fetal defect – means they should treat doctors, not politicians.

“I myself struggled with infertility and experienced a miscarriage in the first trimester, which I found devastating, so I’m not saying that pregnancy has no value,” she testified.

“This value is different for different people. And the way people connect with pregnancy is different,” Verma said. “And every person has the ability to make really important, sometimes complex, sometimes difficult decisions about their health care and their lives – even if sometimes that means ending a pregnancy.”

Following comments from some hearing participants about abortions performed later in pregnancy, Verma sought to clear up misinformation about when and how abortions are performed in the United States.

She noted that if a patient comes to the hospital in the 40th week of pregnancy, she has only two options: a cesarean section or a vaginal delivery, not an abortion.

“I also just want to emphasize that 90% of abortions in this country occur in the first trimester and less than 1% occur after the 20th week, when in most cases something bad happens to the patient or the pregnancy,” Verma testified. “And that person really needs that care.”

When that happens, Verma said, patients need her support as a doctor, not telling them she can’t provide them with treatment options.

“I have some patients who decide to continue their pregnancy and carry the baby to term, and I have other patients who say, ‘It’s too traumatic, I can’t do it,’” she said.

“I think as physicians we all recognize that providing lifesaving care sometimes means terminating a pregnancy,” Verma said. “Calling this care something other than abortion is a matter of semantics and different political agendas.”

Dr. Christina Francis, executive director of the Pro-Life American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had a very different answer to the question of when and how doctors should perform abortions.

“I think that certainly beyond the point where the baby can survive outside the mother, there will never be a reason to intentionally end the life of that baby,” Francis said, referring to viability, which typically occurs between 22 and 24 weeks. . week of pregnancy.

“You would just give birth to this baby,” Francis added. “You would take care of the mother and the baby properly. And I think I hope that all of us at this table can agree on that.”

Francis did not explain her beliefs about pre-survival abortion during the hearing.

Abortion access in Alaska

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski reiterated her long-held position that abortion decisions should be left to women and their doctors, not the government.

“I also believe it is reasonable not to require those who are strongly opposed to abortion to support it with their tax dollars, and that health care providers who do not want to engage in abortion should not be forced to do so,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski said women in Alaska continue to raise concerns with her about abortion access, especially given the rural nature of some areas of the state.

“I continue to hear from many women in my state, women in Alaska, concerned about access to abortion and reproductive services; even though we are a state where we have a right to privacy in our state constitution that protects this access to abortion,” Murkowski said. “But what we have seen from the decisions across the country, in the lower 48, is a ripple effect that has spread all the way north.”

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine rejected the notion that state legislatures are best equipped to decide abortion access.

“Your rights shouldn’t depend on the zip code you live in, your rights shouldn’t depend on who makes up the state legislature,” Kaine said.

Dr. Allison Linton, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said one of the problems lawmakers face when implementing restrictions or bans on abortion access is the sophisticated range of problems a woman can face during pregnancy.

Linton then detailed the patients’ stories, rhetorically asking the committee whether they should have had access to abortion.

“What about a patient with newly diagnosed breast cancer in the eighth week of pregnancy who cannot start chemotherapy or radiation during pregnancy?” Linton said. “Is delaying treatment until delivery endangering her life?”

“What about a patient with a bleeding disorder, for whom pregnancy further increases the risk of pulmonary embolism or stroke?” Linton continued. “Is the risk of a blood clot sufficient, or do I have to wait until the actual stroke occurs?”

“What about the 13-year-old who is a victim of incest?” Linton asked. “Is the psychological and physical trauma of carrying a baby in her barely maturing body enough to justify terminating the pregnancy?”

The vote on contraception is approaching

Members of Congress will also focus on access to contraception this week.

Senators voting is scheduled Wednesday on legislation co-sponsored by 49 Democrats and independent lawmakers. The 12-page bill aims to ensure access to contraception regardless of future Supreme Court rulings.

The constitutional right to contraception is currently secured by two U.S. Supreme Court decisions – the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case, which held that married couples have a right to privacy in contraceptive decisions, and the 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird decision ., in which the judges stated that this right extended to unmarried persons.

But Democrats and reproductive rights advocates fear the Supreme Court could overturn these two cases in the same way it overturned Roe v. Wade.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst introduced her own four-page bill this week to protect access to contraception, rejecting a proposal from her Democratic colleagues.

“In the face of radical abortion on demand by Democrats, I am proud to provide women with greater access to safe and effective birth control,” Ernst said in a statement. “My bill would expand the number of over-the-counter contraceptive options while providing much-needed transparency and accountability to ensure the government uses tax dollars to support families.”

Almost two years ago Ernst blocked the Democrats since passing the Birth Control Access Act through an expedited process called unanimous consent, which allows any senator to oppose its passage. Does not include roll call voting.

House Democratic measure

During a press conference on Tuesday, House Democrats also introduced their version of the Senate Democrats’ contraceptive access bill.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning has urged House GOP leaders to put the bill to an up-or-down vote, a request that is highly unlikely to happen.

“This bill ensures that citizens have the right to use contraceptives and that health care providers have the right to provide them,” Manning said. “It also protects the full range of contraceptive methods, devices and drugs, including birth control pills, IUDs, emergency contraception and Plan B.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a news conference that Democrats will “put reproductive freedoms and women’s rights at the forefront” in the Senate in the coming weeks.

Part of that push, the New York Democrat said, will be a vote “very soon” on legislation that would strengthen access to in vitro fertilization.

“Millions of Americans have chosen in vitro fertilization to have children,” Schumer said. “But after a stunningly radical decision by the Alabama Supreme Court that threatened access to in vitro fertilization, families rightly fear that this option may be stripped away.”

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