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TO: Interested parties

MEMO: Failed Priorities: Senate Judiciary Committee Obstructs SCOTUS, Abortion Access

Re: TOMORROW, Tuesday, March 15 - Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on failed 20 week ban


Key point: Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a failed bill to restrict access to safe, legal abortion. This is a another example of the Republican leadership’s wildly misplaced priorities that come at the expense of women’s health and a functioning Senate.


In the midst of suffering intense blowback from Americans as a result of obstructing a would-be Supreme Court nominee, Senate Republican leaders have reached a shocking new low in pushing their extreme priorities. You may be wondering what, if anything, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has been preoccupied with while shirking his constitutional duty to consider a nominee to the Supreme Court. Answer: Attacking women’s health care in the Senate.

Senate leaders are now turning their attention TOMORROW to an unpopular agenda of restricting women’s access to abortion, including a ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy that already failed in the 114th Congress. This extreme and dangerous bill, sponsored by failed presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would restrict women’s access to safe, legal abortion and tie doctors' hands.  Doctors across the country have voiced opposition to similar pieces of legislation.

Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Apparently Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell are too busy playing doctor to uphold their constitutional duty to consider a Supreme Court nominee when named. Instead, they are spending hours on a rejected piece of legislation that leading doctors flatly oppose. If Congress were serious about improving women’s health, they would start by addressing the Zika virus and ensuring a fully functioning third branch of government. It’s time to get our priorities straight and quit forcing this obstructionist agenda on America.”  

Why 20-week bans are dangerous and medically unnecessary:

While women should never have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under complex circumstances — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

  • Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks of gestation. Data, including from the CDC, show that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. And studies show women experience serious complications less than one percent of the time.

CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), oppose the bill. Dr. Lawrence stated: “There is no science behind his bill — sadly, just bias,” and that medically inaccurate claims made by politicians have been “repeatedly debunked by science.”

Specifically, Sen.Graham’s bill would force women who have already been through the trauma of rape to wait 48 hours to get an abortion, and it would force them to see two different doctors, for no medical reason.

A failing, unpopular agenda:

The House of Representatives forced through a harmful 20-week ban last May (but not before the bill divided Republicans). In September, it tanked in the Senate. While they continue to attempt to force through unpopular bills, Republican leaders remain committed to blocking the basic functions of government and democracy.

Abortion opponents in Congress often pursue their efforts to restrict access under the guise of safety — which doesn’t stand up to science. Meanwhile, Republican leaders have forced multiple bills that try to severely undermine patient access to preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers. Congress is also falling short in addressing the imminent public health crises threatening women’s health care: Zika virus.  Women’s health organizations, including Planned Parenthood, and 31 U.S. Senators have demanded family planning and maternal health resources be made available as part of a response to the Zika virus. The virus is rapidly spreading toward the U.S. and the global community faces a growing public health crisis. Congress has failed to meaningfully address the issue.

Republican leaders, led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have outright refused to uphold their constitutional duty, refusing to even hold a hearing on a SCOTUS nominee. Members of their caucus have gone a step further and stated they would not even meet with a potential nominee.  Yet, so far in the 114th Congress there have been 21 anti-women's health votes.

In women’s own words…

April, Metuchen, NJ: At 18 weeks, April and her husband found out that their baby had lethal skeletal dysplasia.  He would never be able to breathe on his own.  If she carried the pregnancy to term and he was born alive, he would die shortly after of suffocation.  April hoped the news wasn’t true, so she requested more tests to confirm the diagnosis, which took two weeks.  At 21 weeks, she had an abortion. A video of April’s personal story can be found here.

April’s abortion took place in June, 2013.  In October 2014, she gave birth to a healthy girl.

Chelsea, Rockville, MD :  Chelsea’s baby was diagnosed at 22 weeks with multiple heart defects including transposition of the great arteries, pulmonary atresia, and ventricular septal defect.  He also had DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder that caused not only his heart defects but would have caused many other problems for him as well.  She and her husband decided to have an abortion after consulting with a team of medical specialists, as well as a genetics counselor.  They ended the pregnancy at 24 weeks.

Chelsea’s abortion took place in 2008.  Since then, she has given birth to two healthy girls, currently ages 5 and 3.

Julie, Rockville, Maryland: Julie’s doctor told her and her husband that their son’s brain had a serious abnormality, a diagnosis that they confirmed with tests, more ultrasounds, and an MRI.  If the baby survived birth, he would never speak, walk, or have conscious thoughts based upon what had developed in his brain.  Julie and her husband decided to end the pregnancy, and the soonest they could get the appointment was at 21 weeks.

Julie’s abortion took place in 2009.  She already had a healthy child born before the abortion, and she went on to experience two additional healthy pregnancies, giving birth to two more children in 2011 and 2013.

This hearing is part of a broader effort to chip away at abortion access, and it is deeply unpopular with the majority of Americans.

  • A strong majority of voters — Republicans (62 percent), Democrats (78 percent), and Independents (71 percent) — say this is the wrong issue for Congress and their state legislators to be spending time on.

  • President Obama has previously threatened to veto this bill in the 113th and 114thCongresses, stating that, “This bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and shows contempt for women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution.”

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