U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are going on offense with the reintroduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act, seeking to put a stop to restrictive laws against women’s health care providers at the state level.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2014”, or H.R.7, that will prohibit federally funded abortions and exclude abortion from qualified health plans.
The Republican majority in the U.S. House was able to pass the bill on the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. But they canceled a vote on a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“That constitutional right has been under constant, relentless attack for 42 years,” Blumenthal said at a Friday press conference in Hartford.
Although the Women’s Health Protection Act would have no direct impact on Connecticut, according to Murphy, laws have been put in place nationally at the state level to inhibit the privacy and health rights of women.
“Two hundred thirty restrictive measures have been passed in the states that handicap and undercut a woman’s right to choose,” said Blumenthal. “Women in many parts of the country live hundreds of miles from any place where they can seek to exercise their constitutional rights because of these laws.”
Current legal restrictions that have been imposed at the state level include anything from the width of clinic hallways, being required to watch informational videos prior to having an abortion, or closing clinics completely that provide abortion services.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would “establish a firewall” against state restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, according to Blumenthal. “It would say to the states that you cannot establish laws that seem to safeguard health when they sabotage individual rights.”
Gretchen Raffa, director of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, spoke alongside the senators about the implications of restrictive legislation on the constitutional rights of women. Congress’ vote on H.R.7 “was a clear reminder on how far we still have to go make this right a reality for everyone,” said Raffa.
Murphy, along with more than one-third of the Senate, have co-sponsored this legislation supporting the ban on state health care restrictions for women. “This right is being denied daily to women across the country,” said Murphy. “That’s why we have to step in.”
Murphy and Blumenthal both agreed that they are going to be seeking Republican support in both the House and Senate. “It’s important for us to shed bright light on what is happening - we’re going to reach out across the aisle when we can to find Republicans of good faith who will work with us,” said Murphy.
Stephen Glassman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, commended Blumenthal and Murphy for leading on the issue and, “putting Connecticut in the forefront of those states that recognize that the right’s of women must be protected constitutionally.”