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Fighting Bad Science In The Senate

Memo Pad

Fighting Bad Science In The Senate


The Senate hearing for the Women’s Health Protection Act shows just how important it is for women’s health advocates to push for the facts.

The propensity of anti-choice advocates to eulogize false science was on full display on Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). That bill is a bold measure that would counter the relentless barrage of anti-choice legislation that has made abortion — a constitutionally protected medical procedure — altogether inaccessible for many U.S. women.

The bill was introduced last year by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Marcia Fudge. It prohibits states from applying regulations to reproductive health care centers and providers that do not also apply to other low-risk medical procedures. It would, essentially, remove politicians from decisions that — for every other medical issue — remain between individuals and their providers.

The WHPA is long overdue. For the past three years, conservative lawmakers have used the guise of protecting women’s health to pass more than 200 state laws that have closed clinics, eliminated abortion services, and left women across the country without access to critical reproductive health care. The WHPA would reverse many of those policies and prevent others from being passed.

Tuesday’s hearing was representative of the broader debate over abortion rights. Those in favor of the bill argued that securing unfettered access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is critical to the health and lives of U.S. women and their families.

Those in opposition used familiar canards about abortion to argue that the law would be calamitous for U.S. women. Representative Diane Black of Tennessee had the gall to make the abortion-leads-to-breast cancer claim, one that has been disproven many times over. Others repeatedly cited the horrific cases of Kermit Gosnell, insinuating that all abortion providers (abortionists, in their lingo) are predatory and that late-term abortions are a common occurrence. In fact, if women had access to safe, comprehensive and intimidation-free care, Kermit Gosnell would have never been in business. Given the opposition’s testimony, you’d never know that late-term abortion is actually a rarity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 90 percent of all abortions occur before 13 weeks gestation, with just over 1 percent taking place past 21 weeks.

At one point Representative Black argued that abortion is actually not health care. The one in three U.S. women who have undergone the procedure would surely argue otherwise.

Perhaps the most ironic testimony against the WHPA — and in favor of abortion restrictions — came from Senator Ted Cruz, who hails from Texas, a state with so many abortion restrictions that women are now risking their health and lives by self-inducing abortions or crossing the border to get care in Mexico. Senator Cruz attempted to validate U.S. abortion restrictions by referencing a handful of European countries with gestational restrictions on abortions. This was a popular argument during the hearing for Texas’ HB2 — the bill responsible for shuttering the majority of clinics in that state.

Cruz wins the prize for cherry picking facts to best support his argument. When citing our European counterparts, he conveniently ignored that such abortion restrictions are entrenched in progressive public health systems that enable all individuals to access quality, affordable (often free) health care, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Senator Cruz and his colleagues have adamantly opposed similar policies in the U.S., particularly the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for contraceptive coverage and Medicaid expansion. On the one hand conservatives lean on European policies to argue for stricter abortion restrictions at home, and on the other they claim those policies are antithetical to the moral fabric of the United States.

Would Cruz support France’s policies that enable women to be fully reimbursed for the cost of their abortion and that guarantees girls ages 15 to 18 free birth control? Or Belgium’s policy that enables young people to be reimbursed for the cost of emergency contraception? Or the broad exceptions that both countries make for cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment, to preserve woman’s physical or mental health, and for social or economic reasons? He absolutely would not.

As the House of Representatives seems to be more motivated by suing the president than by voting on — let alone passing — laws that will actually improve the health and lives of their constituents, it’s highly unlikely that the WHPA will become law. But Tuesday’s debate — and the bill itself — is significant and shows a willingness among pro-choice advocates to go on offense after too many years of playing defense.

Bills such as the WHPA — even if they face a slim chance of being passed by a gridlocked Congress — provide an opportunity to call out conservatives’ use of bad science in their attempts to convince women that lawmakers know best when it comes to their personal medical decisions. And they allow us to remind lawmakers and citizens that despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, abortion is a common, safe and constitutionally protected medical procedure, and that regulating it into extinction will only force women into back-alley practices like those run by Gosnell, costing them their health and their lives.

Those in support of the WHPA showed anti-choice lawmakers that the days of make a sport of trampling women’s health and rights are numbered.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Cross-posted from the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog.

The Roosevelt Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Photo: Jbouie via Flickr

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  1. Independent1 July 17, 2014

    I’m having trouble coming up with any science that those in the GOP embrace. It would seem that they are more comfortable in believing hearsay or unsubstantiated facts than the truth.

    Many GOPers appear to discount the science of evolution, because they can’t seem to grasp the fact that the scientific theories of evolution are only the compilations of educated people (scientists) over the past couple hundred years, created by simply recording the tinkering God did with his creations over the past 5 plus billion years.

    And GOPers also totally ignore the vast majority of scientists who have proven that man is creating a problem for the world called Global Warming or Climate Change – take your pick.

    And they even ignore scientists that have done studies which have shown that by passing laws that prohibit women from getting abortions, that that does not, in fact, decrease abortions, but may well actually increase them, because you’ve removed the authorized clinics that actually make an effort of talking women out of having an abortion before performing on.

    While without those legal abortion clinics, women simply travel somewhere else where abortions are legal, or look for some quack to perform one without trying to talk her out of having it, while also greatly endangering her life. Totally ignoring that instead of them being pro-life they may be actually more pro-death.

    And GOPers also seem to totally disregard the sciences associated with alternative energies, and instead choose to keep feeding subsidies to fossil fuel companies despite the fact that more than 90% of scientists claim that they are destroying our planet.

    Could someone on the NM please help me out, is there a science that GOPers actually embrace??

    1. Daniel Jones July 18, 2014

      Christian science.. you know, NO treatment and pray over the corpse until Jesus wakes it up?

    2. jmprint July 18, 2014

      The only science is fiction science. They rely heavy on it.

    3. dtgraham July 18, 2014

      That may not be fair Independent. You’ll have to admit that the GOP is a party of very strong convictions and they do at least stand by them. Stupid, ignorant, world-destroying convictions based on widely disproven economic fantasies and ancient books full of cruel, primitive morality. But convictions nevertheless.

      1. highpckts July 20, 2014

        Exactly!! Where are the DEMS? Where is our voice? Where is the Democraic party when this trash comes out? Where are they? We have convictions. WHY does no one speak out against this trash?? It is so frustrating!!

        1. dtgraham July 20, 2014

          We are seeing it to an extent highpckts. Harry Reid has been trashing the Koch brothers publicly in the Senate for quite a while now. He has now started the verbal bashing of the Supreme Court in the Senate. The President has been mocking and laughing at the do nothing Congress lately. Some of his one liners are pretty funny. I also wish Obama would be more forceful on things like Vladimir Putin and the Republican Congress (there’s a difference?), but there has been some pushback.

          1. highpckts July 21, 2014

            Not nearly enough!! The first thing we need is an impartial media!! I don’t see that happening! I guess since the GOP comes out with this crazy stuff, the media has to cover such inanity!!

          2. idamag July 22, 2014

            Speaking of impartial media: CableOne dropped a bunch of programs, citing that the providers were too costly. On of my friends had Comedy Central replaced with a right-wing ranting program. Did Murdoch or the Koch brothers buy CableOne?

          3. idamag July 22, 2014

            This morning Obama urged the rest of the world to sanction Putin.

    4. jointerjohn July 18, 2014

      Bluntly, no. There is no science the GOP will embrace, and here’s why. Science has this annoying tendency to lead to conclusions based upon fact, or at least a strong preponderance of evidence. Because the GOP now approaches everything from a desired result and then backs it’s way into getting there, science is a real nuisance. Besides, science by it’s very nature promotes the continual education of mankind, and they are already pissed that voters can read and think in the first place. The last thing they could survive is a voting population that demanded evidence.

      1. rustacus21 July 19, 2014

        … evidence such as, they’re being PAID to work on behalf of the majority of the citizens. As the most unproductive Congress since the nation was begun, conservative voters & non-voting Liberal voters must ask, why are they in office, representing ‘ME’, when they get fixated on private, personal, women’s health issues? The verdict came down in 1973. Didn’t they get that message, in other words? So what are they & we now, talking about it for… STILL?!?!

        1. idamag July 22, 2014

          They run on a platform of less government intervention by eliminating or watering down restrictions.

      2. idamag July 22, 2014

        You are right. Here is the outcome, now find something to back it up.

  2. dtgraham July 18, 2014

    Now this is rich. Listening to Republicans over the years I thought that the rest of the world was supposed to be a godless, socialist, UN inspired plot designed to corrupt American exceptionalism. So they’ve finally found an issue where they want America to be more like Europe. Finally.

    Most EU countries perform abortion “on request” and although they may have gestational limits on abortion, there are two hugely important qualifiers. One being that those limits are frequently extended (beyond 20 weeks, etc…) if it’s: i) to save a woman’s life ii) to preserve her mental and physical health iii) due to rape or incest iv) a case where the child will be born with serious disabilities. A search of their policies reveals ‘on demand’ or ‘request’ and those limit extensions numerous times. The other qualifier being that European women tend to have both easy and cheap (or free) access to abortion services and contraception. So the gestational limits become close to meaningless. That’s a long way from many GOP controlled states where access to abortion has been effectively eliminated for most women, and contraception coverage and access has been lessened.

    There was another National Memo article very recently where Mitch McConnell also wanted America to “join the rest of the civilized nations” when it comes to abortion. He wanted to restrict it to 20 weeks in his proposed legislation. I especially liked that phrase from him. I thought to myself, I can give you a mentor right under your nose Mitch if that’s what you want. Canada has no abortion laws at all, and earlier this year a lowly Conservative party backbench member of parliament tabled a very surprising motion on the floor of the House of Commons that purported to commission a study on when human life really begins. It legally begins at birth in Canada. It was widely seen for what it was; a sneaky attempt to reopen the abortion debate. The motion was soundly defeated on a vote. Every opposition member voted against it as did the overwhelming majority of Conservative party members. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against it, adding that ‘the abortion debate has been settled and every woman has the right to reproductive choice at any point in the pregnancy’.

    In the weeks that followed, the New Democratic party and the Liberal party got into a public argument through the media as to which one of them was the purest pro-choice party (I’m not kidding). Not to be out done, the Conservative party issued a statement along the lines of…the abortion debate has long been settled and every woman has the right to choose. It was a pro-choice off.

    Are you sure you want America to join “the rest of the civilized nations” on abortion Mitch? The Democrats do. Are you sure you do?

  3. rustacus21 July 18, 2014

    Funny, sad, tragic, irony of conservatives seemingly demanding we take them ‘seriously’ in their push to influence our polity… Think about that for a moment… Please & don’t add, take away or compound it ANY!!! Just think on it momentarily… Then grab U’r Constitution real quick & read thru Article I, Section 8. Remember now, conservatives are: against taxes. They’re against the Postal Service. They’re against the ‘General Welfare’ but are All for defense of a longer period than the 2 year window allowed there by. They’re against Public Education, but according to the Constitution, they’re to PROMOTE the: PROGRESS OF SCIENCES AND THE USEFUL (did someone say LIBERAL?) ARTS… Now, can someone tell us all again, why are we continuing to, in the Senate, accommodate their lunatic positions, bogged down eternally on… ABORTION… when they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about, in terms of legislation & how & who it will benefit, in terms of the greatest majority of the citizenry, of which their jobs in elective office, are to serve? No one is asking this question, as these phony’s wave their Constitutions 24/7, having not even READ IT!!! They have a job to do, but are wasting time telling women to do… WHAT?!?!

  4. ps0rjl July 20, 2014

    These politicians discount science because their base discounts science. Evolution? Nope, Adam and Eve. Abortion? Nope, God said it is murder, or at least their preacher did. Climate change? Nope, Just a cycle and God will fix it???? We don’t need none of that liberal learning. We got the Bible. (sarcasm) Science represents change and these people can’t stand change.

  5. highpckts July 20, 2014

    I would get really excited if the Dems would really fight back on ANYTHING!!! How is it that the GOP makes major headlines with their craziness and NOTHING from the Dems! We seriously need a spine and fight fire with fire!!

    1. idamag July 22, 2014

      Me, too. They are up against the bully who will keep bullying until they sock him in the eye.

  6. idamag July 22, 2014

    Ted Cruz might be a bit of a misogynist because: with a face like that who would go to the prom with him?


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