Cruz: Senate Democrats’ Abortion Bill Is the ‘War on Women’

Republicans argue that promoting abortion access makes Democrats the real warriors.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Leaders of the Republican Party spoke at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference which hosted 1,500 delegates from across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
July 15, 2014, 1:18 p.m.

The “War on Wo­men” fin­ger-point­ing has in­tens­i­fied, with jabs fly­ing in all dir­ec­tions.

Demo­crats have ramped up their fo­cus on con­tra­cep­tion and abor­tion is­sues ahead of the midterms, ac­cus­ing Re­pub­lic­ans of sup­port­ing le­gis­la­tion that re­stricts wo­men’s re­pro­duct­ive free­dom, health, and safety. Re­pub­lic­ans have, mean­while, tried to shift blame in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion.

Such was the case Tues­day in a sur­pris­ingly sub­dued-for-the-top­ic hear­ing on a bill to pro­tect wo­men’s ac­cess to abor­tion ser­vices. Re­pub­lic­ans at the hear­ing sought to por­tray abor­tion ac­cess — and abor­tion it­self — as an as­sault on wo­men’s rights.

“This le­gis­la­tion is a very real mani­fest­a­tion of a war on wo­men,” Sen. Ted Cruz said at the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing, “giv­en the health con­sequences that un­lim­ited abor­tion ac­cess has had on many wo­man.”

The Wo­men’s Health Pro­tec­tion Act is a re­sponse to the wave of an­ti­abor­tion le­gis­la­tion that has passed in states in the past sev­er­al years. The bill would pre­vent states from im­ple­ment­ing re­stric­tions — such as ad­mit­ting priv­ileges at loc­al hos­pit­als for doc­tors, struc­tur­al re­quire­ments for clin­ics, man­dated wait­ing peri­ods, and man­dated ul­tra­sounds — that do not sig­ni­fic­antly ad­vance wo­men’s health and safety, and that make abor­tion ser­vices more dif­fi­cult to ac­cess.

A set of these laws passed in Cruz’s home state of Texas last sum­mer has already closed about a third of the abor­tion clin­ics in the state. There were 40 op­er­at­ing in 2011; there are now 20 still open. After the last pro­vi­sion is im­ple­men­ted in Septem­ber, all but six are ex­pec­ted to close.

Spon­sors of the Wo­men’s Health Pro­tec­tion Act say these re­quire­ments are not med­ic­ally ne­ces­sary and set up dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments for abor­tion ser­vices than for oth­er med­ic­al pro­ced­ures for one simple reas­on: polit­ics.

Sup­port­ers of these man­dates ar­gue that they pro­tect the health and safety of wo­men, to pre­vent ab­uses such as sex-se­lec­tion abor­tions, or an­oth­er rogue abor­tion pro­vider like Ker­mit Gos­nell.

“This le­gis­la­tion be­ing con­sidered is ex­treme le­gis­la­tion,” Cruz con­tin­ued. “It is le­gis­la­tion de­signed to elim­in­ate reas­on­able re­stric­tions on abor­tion that states have put in place. It is de­signed to force a rad­ic­al view from Demo­crats in the Sen­ate: that abor­tions should be uni­ver­sally avail­able, without lim­its, and paid for by the tax­pay­ers.”

Cur­rently, the law al­lows states to set abor­tion reg­u­la­tions, as long as they do not im­pose an “un­due bur­den” on wo­men seek­ing the pro­ced­ure. A num­ber of state le­gis­latures have taken a very loose in­ter­pret­a­tion of what con­sti­tutes an un­due bur­den; now Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gue that Tues­day’s bill is broad enough that it would elim­in­ate any state reg­u­la­tion.

“The bill is really about just one thing: It seeks to strip away from elec­ted law­makers the abil­ity to provide even the most min­im­al pro­tec­tions for un­born chil­dren, at any stage of their pren­at­al de­vel­op­ment,” said Car­ol To­bi­as, pres­id­ent of the Na­tion­al Right to Life Com­mit­tee. “While the pro­pos­al is so sweep­ing and ex­treme that it would be dif­fi­cult to cap­ture its full scope in any short title, call­ing the bill the ‘Abor­tion Without Lim­its Un­til Birth Act’ would be more in line with truth-in-ad­vert­ising stand­ards.”

To­bi­as said she would fa­vor over­turn­ing the Su­preme Court’s Roe v. Wade de­cision al­to­geth­er.

Pro­ponents of Tues­day’s bill ar­gue this is ex­actly Re­pub­lic­ans’ in­ten­tion: to make abor­tions in­ac­cess­ible in prac­tice, des­pite them be­ing deemed leg­al by the Su­preme Court.

“Con­gress is re­spons­ible for en­for­cing every Amer­ic­an’s fun­da­ment­al rights guar­an­teed by our Con­sti­tu­tion,” said Demo­crat­ic Sen. Tammy Bald­win, a co­spon­sor of the Sen­ate bill, along with Sen. Richard Blu­menth­al. “Throughout his­tory, when states have passed laws that make it harder — or even im­possible — to ex­er­cise those rights, we have ne­ces­sar­ily stepped in with fed­er­al pro­tec­tions.”

Yet the pro­posed le­gis­la­tion is a rare fed­er­al ac­tion on an is­sue typ­ic­ally left to state le­gis­latures.

Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn held up a photo of her grand­son’s ul­tra­sound at the start of the hear­ing. “I could tell, three months be­fore he was born, that he had my eyes and nose. For a grand­moth­er, that’s a really big deal,” she said.

“We all want what’s best for wo­men. We dif­fer on what that is, and we dif­fer how to get there.”

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