Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2021 / 14:49 pm (CNA).
The House this week will vote on a bill that the U.S. bishops’ conference warns would effectively impose abortion on-demand throughout pregnancy.
The Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), recognizes the “statutory right” of women to have abortions. It also states the “right” of doctors, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners and doctor’s assistants to perform abortions. It prohibits many limitations on this right, such as state pro-life laws requiring ultrasounds or waiting periods before abortions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic, announced the House vote on the bill earlier this month after a Texas law went into effect restricting abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat; a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The Texas law is enforced through private civil lawsuits.
After the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the law on Sept. 1, Pelosi vowed to bring up the Women’s Health Protection Act and “enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.” The bill is scheduled to be voted on this week in the House.
In an action alert, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) calls the legislation “the most radical abortion bill of all time.”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann – chair of the USCCB’s pro-life committee – outlined how the bill would expand abortion, in a Sept. 15 letter to members of Congress.
“This deceptively-named, extreme bill would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute,” Archbishop Naumann wrote. The legislation, he said, would also override state and local pro-life laws such as parental notification and informed consent requirements.
“It would force all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars,” he said, and “would also likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.”
The bill overrides prohibitions on abortion “pre-viability,” or before the age an unborn child is determined to be likely to survive outside the womb.
However, the bill also allows for late-term abortions when a physician’s “good-faith medical judgment” deems the mother’s life or health at risk from the pregnancy. This, the USCCB argues in a fact-sheet, is not a “meaningful limitation” on late-term abortion and would effectively allow abortions until birth.
The bill would also likely require health care workers to perform abortions, overriding possible conscience exemptions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the conference argues. For states defending their pro-life laws in court, they would have to meet a form of “strict scrutiny” test – “a heavy burden of proof,” the conference said.
On Monday, the White House stated its support for the legislation.
“In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live,” the White House stated.
Former Republican congressman Keith Rothfus stated on Twitter that Pelosi “makes a big deal about being #Catholic. But this week she plans to bring the most pro-#abortion bill ever up for a vote.”
The White House statement comes after President Joe Biden promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas, following implementation of the state’s “heartbeat” law.
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a “three-pronged” response to the Texas law, increased funding for emergency contraceptives and “family planning services” in the state.
This article was updated on Sept. 20 with new information.
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