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House panel examines impact of state abortion restrictions after Roe reversal

WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is hearing testimony from state officials, abortion rights advocates and legal experts Wednesday about the impact the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has had in states that have imposed limits on abortion.

Among those testifying at the 10 a.m. ET hearing are Democratic Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, Democratic Georgia House Rep. Renitta Shannon, National Women’s Law Center President Fatima Goss Graves, University of California, Irvine law professor Michele Bratcher Goodwin, We Testify abortion advocate Sarah Lopez, and Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Erin Hawley, wife of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

The committee tried to get abortion providers to testify, some of whom have experienced violence, but they were too afraid to appear and share their stories, committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said.

“Today’s hearing is especially important because Republicans are not going to stop with Dobbs,” Maloney said in her opening statement, referring to the Supreme Court ruling. “They are openly planning to impose a national ban on abortion. The damage that would cause is inconceivable.”

“As we hear about the impact of the loss of abortion rights today, I would like to ask those watching our hearing a simple question: Is this the country we want for our children?” Maloney continued. “Do we want a country where our children have fewer rights than we did? Or do we want to live in a country that respects and trusts women to make the best choices for themselves and their families?”

“The answer is clear,” she said. “Americans overwhelmingly support the right to abortion.”

Committee ranking member James Comer, R-Ky., defended the Supreme Court ruling in his opening remarks, saying the Dobbs decision “did not outlaw abortion” but simply returned the issue to the states.

Comer criticized Democrats for attacking the high court’s legitimacy and “seeking to intimidate through thinly veiled threats.” He said Democrats are trying to “draw attention away from the failures of the Biden administration — failures that have led to skyrocketing inflation, record-high gas prices, a frightening shortage of baby formula and the worst border crisis in the history of America.”

Goss Graves, of the National Women’s Law Center, testified that she “cannot overstate how much legal uncertainty and chaos that this Supreme Court has unleashed with this unsound opinion,” resulting in people facing “vague and evolving and even sometimes conflicting state laws.”

“Employers and schools and city governments, they’re all buried under the weight of this explosion,” she said. “Clinics and health care professionals, they’re trying to make sense of this shifting landscape. Patients are confused and they are scared about their rights and they as individuals are forced to navigate an uncertain legal landscape. Many cannot travel including those who can’t afford it.”

Michigan Rep. McMorrow noted that while her state has a 1931 trigger law that makes providing an abortion a felony, with no exception for age, rape or incest, the procedure is still legal because of a preliminary injunction blocking the law’s enforcement. She defended maintaining and increasing access to abortion services.

“Every situation is different,” McMorrow said. “Every individual and family seeking abortion care does so for different reasons. Sometimes birth control fails. Sometimes a family already has children and knows that they cannot support anymore for so many others. Getting pregnant is hard and staying pregnant, safely and healthily is even harder.”

Georgia Rep. Shannon spoke about having an abortion 20 years ago and facing “significant unnecessary burdens.” Over the last two decades, she said, “barriers to accessing abortion care have only increased, exacerbating an ongoing public health crisis defined by more maternal deaths increasing poverty and greater inequality overall.”

“The Dobbs decision will amount to structural violence for many communities, but most egregiously for black, brown, indigenous people of color and people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people and people living at the intersection of these identities who have already sustained centuries of oppression and lack of access to reproductive freedom,” Shannon said.

Hawley, the only witness invited by Republicans, called Roe “terrible constitutional law” and said there’s “no such thing as an unwanted child.” She said abortion “treats babies as mere objects, even while science establishes that babies are both fully alive, and fully human.” Hawley also said that many companies are “eager” to help pay for women to end their pregnancies but questioned how many of them offer to pay for diapers, child care or permit flexible work schedules.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe in a 5-4 decision on June 24 — nearly 50 years after the landmark ruling — in a case it heard on Mississippi’s abortion ban, which the court ruled 6-3 to uphold.

The committee said the hearing will focus on the nearly half of states where abortion has been or may soon be banned. It said the hearing will also examine how these restrictions perpetuate “cycles of adverse health and economic outcomes” and actions proposed by Democrats to protect and expand the right to an abortion.

The House is scheduled to vote this week on two abortion rights bills, including legislation to codify the abortion rights that were guaranteed under Roe v. Wade and to bar states from trying to stop women from going out-of-state for abortions, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to her colleagues. Neither bill has a chance of passing in the Senate because of Republican opposition.

Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding a similar hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, with witnesses from various pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week that aims to safeguard access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception; protect patients’ privacy and access to accurate information; and promote the safety and security of patients, providers and clinics.

Biden and top Democrats have been urging people to turn out to vote in November to elect pro-abortion rights candidates and have been warning that Republicans intend to enact a federal abortion ban.

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