“Abortion is absolutely health care,” the US House panel said as the GOP pursues a statewide ban

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listens during a House Rules Committee hearing on procedures for upcoming votes in the US Capitol June 28. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

A nationwide ban on abortion would widen health care inequalities and increase maternal mortality rates, particularly among black women, doctors and attorneys told a U.S. House panel on Thursday.

“Women’s advancement has always been inseparable from the ability to control our own bodies,” Jocelyn Frye, the president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, told members of the US House of Representatives’ Oversight and Reform Committee during more than three hour hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building.

“Access to abortion has been critical for women and everyone who gives birth,” Frye continued. “Research shows that restricting abortion affects the health, safety and well-being of pregnant women.”

Earlier this month, US Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) introduced a bill that would do so Ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeksreplacing state-level restrictions and further stirring up the post-June abortion access debate US Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v. Calf.

Graham’s bill came even as Republican-controlled lawmakers across the country imposed strict abortion bans and forced pregnant people to flee across state lines to seek help. Some of Graham’s Republicans have distanced themselves from the proposal.

“How do abortion bans disproportionately affect communities of color that are often left behind?” asked US Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) Frye.

“What we really want is the ability for all people, especially blacks and browns and people of color, to have access to the health care they need,” Frye replied. “Abortion bans take the decisions out of their hands. As a result, they are relying on systems that have perpetuated inequalities for decades.”

‘Who will you be?’

A witness told lawmakers they face a binary choice on abortion rights.

“Who will you be?” Kelsey Leigh, a Pittsburgh resident, asked the panel. “Will you judge people who are pregnant without knowing them or their circumstances? Or will you listen… and be the compassion our country so desperately needs right now?”

Leigh, who had an abortion at 20 weeks after an ultrasound revealed conditions in her unborn son she considered “incompatible with life” and now works for the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh, where she speaks to people seeking abortion assistance, told lawmakers the facility has been inundated with calls from people from neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, who have strict abortion bans.

“We are the closest clinic to 70% of Ohio,” Lehigh told US Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif). “Two-thirds of the people I speak to every day are from Ohio and West Virginia. They organize trips and childcare.”

“Turn Back the Clock”

In her opening remarks, panel chair US Rep. Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) argued that Republicans on Capitol Hill and across the country are “turning back the clock on women’s rights,” focusing on a recent Arizona court ruling Reinstatement of a 158-year-old law which bans virtually all abortions.

“Let that sink in, a law that was passed more than a century ago, before women had the right to vote,” Maloney said.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly accused the majority of Democrats of using the hearing to gamble for votes ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections. they also repeated the false claim that a bill proposing Roe v. Wade codified into federal law that would allow abortion until birth.

“Let us be clear what today’s hearing is about – it is not about advocating for the best interests of women. It is an attempt to introduce a system of taxpayer-funded on-demand abortion,” said US Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.). “They are doing this under the guise of hearings like this to incite fear and push through their far-left agenda.”

US Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis). echoed the sentiment, arguing that “the idea that there is a constitutional right to abortion is not true. We have an era where judges study law and find ways to circumvent the constitution. A bill recently passed by the House of Representatives would make abortion legal until birth. Other countries have bans on this.”

A PolitiFact analysis in June ruled that this claim was “largely false.”

The bill “allows abortion until delivery, but only if it is deemed necessary to protect the life of the patient. It does not specifically require states to keep the procedure legal in all cases beyond the fetal viability point,” according to PolitiFact.

US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) resorted to this constitutional argument.

“The Supreme Court has ruled. That’s actually the problem here. There is a question that needs to be answered: Who gets to decide? Can the government decide if and when a woman can get pregnant? Or is this a personal health decision that should be made and left to the woman, her family, her faith and her doctor?”.

The GOP lawmakers also dismissed arguments from witnesses on the panel that a safe and legal abortion is a crucial part of empowering pregnant people as they seek to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

“This extreme bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, would put the United States in the company of countries like China and North Korea,” said US Rep. Virginia Foxx (RN.C.). “It’s the Democrats who take extreme positions on abortion, and they go against the will of most Americans. It’s one thing to determine what’s happening in your own body. It’s someone else [thing] to determine the fate of the unborn child you carry.”

Raskin considers Pennsylvania

Looking across his state line to Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) referenced breaking stories about Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial nominee, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who told a radio interviewer in 2019 Women who flouted a six-week ban law he was a sponsor at the time, should be charged with murder.

“They’ve become a little more reluctant and evasive about wanting to ban abortion anywhere in the country since the people of Kansas voted against a ban,” Raskin said, referring to an August poll in which Kansas voters voted were strongly oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would have deprived residents of the right to abortion.

“It seems like the cat has its tongue now that it hit the rock. And the rock is the women who assert themselves as America’s first class citizens,” Raskin said.

Medical professionals speaking before the House panel on Thursday faced repeated questions from GOP lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), about whether abortion treatments could be classified as health care.

“Abortion is not healthcare. Its goal is to kill the fetus,” said Dr. Monique Chireau Wubbenhorst, an obstetrician-gynecologist, speaking at the behest of panel Republicans.

dr Nisha Verma, Fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, countered that Wubbenhorst’s opinion is not the prevailing opinion among obstetricians-gynecologists and their professional organizations.

“The overwhelming consensus is that abortion is absolutely preventive health care,” Verma said.

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