Sen. Hatch: Why Is Abortion So Unique That Congress Can Override States’ Rights to Protect It?

By Tatiana Lozano | July 17, 2014 | 11:07am EDT

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) (AP photo)

( - Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) warned members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Women’s Health Protection Act threatens states’ rights by eliminating “even minimal regulations” on abortion.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would prohibit numerous state laws and regulations already on the books, ranging from parental consent laws to requiring ultrasound tests prior to an abortion to limiting the “ability to provide abortion services via telemedicine” when prescribing abortion pills like RU-486.

"Congress has a few times told the states that they had to pass certain legislation, but only as a condition of receiving federal funds of some kind," Hatch told the committee.

“Now I’m in my 38th year here in the United States Senate and on this committee, and I don’t recall Congress ever passing a law that prohibited states from enacting entire categories of laws simply because Congress says so,” the Utah Republican said at a hearing on the bill Tuesday. “I don’t recall that.”

“Why is abortion so unique that Congress has this authority in this area but not in any other?” he asked.

“States have been passing laws regulating abortions for almost 200 years,” he continued. “The Supreme Court took over in its Roe v. Wade decision, and since 1973, the United States has had the most permissive abortion laws in the world today.

“But most Americans have always opposed most abortions, and the vast majority of Americans support reasonable and commonsense abortion regulations. At least that’s been my experience…This bill attempts to wipe it all out, to eliminate even minimal regulations that most Americans support and that the Supreme Court has already said are constitutional…"

“This bill would not regulate abortions. It would regulate the states, telling them what laws they may or may not pass,” Hatch declared. “How did Congress have the authority to do that?”

Dr. Monique Chireau, a medical professor at Duke University, agreed with Hatch. “Essentially, this law guts states’ rights with respect to abortion. It creates abortion as a special protected class of procedure and abortion providers as a special protected class of providers,” she testified.

However, the bill’s supporters maintain that it merely confirms existing federal law.

Nancy Northup, the CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated at the hearing that it “absolutely enforces the Constitution. It is every woman’s constitutional right to make the important decisions for herself.”

“For example, most states under the Supreme Court’s constitutional rulings can ban abortion later in pregnancy and do, as long as they have an exception for women’s health and life,” Northup said. “Those laws are on the books now, and they would still be on the books.”

But critics of the legislation say that the bill goes far beyond existing laws and regulations.

“It is legislation designed to eliminate reasonable restrictions on abortion that states across this country have put in place,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asserted. “It is legislation designed to force a radical view from Democrats in the Senate that abortion should be universally available, common, without limit, and paid for by the taxpayer. That is an extreme and radical view.”

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