Late last year U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – CT) introduced S. 1696, the so-called “Woman’s Health Protection Act of 2013.”

Recently, there has been a buzz about this bill and what it would do.

The bill purports to protect women’s health. In reality it invalidates state laws regarding abortion, names abortion a constitutional right, and opens the door for unsafe abortion practices. Here is how.

S. 1696 Would Likely…

S. 1696 would likely:

  • Overturn Arkansas’ ban on taxpayer-funded abortion;
  • Challenge Arkansas’ ban on partial-birth abortion;
  • Affect Arkansas’ “fetal-pain” law preventing abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Undermine our informed-consent and parental-consent laws;
  • Prevent surgical abortions from being regulated in a sensible manner; and
  • Increase access to abortifacients, despite the fact chemical abortions carry significant health risks.

Additionally, the bill

  • Repeatedly describes abortion as a constitutional right; and
  • Fails to acknowledge abortion may be regulated to protect healthcare providers’ rights of conscience or religious convictions.

S. 1696 Calls Abortion “a Constitutional Right”

Abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution includes an unspecified “right to privacy,” and that obtaining an abortion is covered by that right.

Abortion on demand hinges on the notion that an unborn child is a “potential person.” Virtually every major court ruling on abortion has recognized or implied that if an unborn child is actually a person, we would need to rethink abortion altogether.

The idea that an unborn child is a “potential person” is based on flimsy logic increasingly undermined by science. S. 1696 contradicts both court precedent and sound science by overtly recognizing “the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy” while failing to acknowledge in any way the personhood of the unborn child.

Abortion is Not Comparable to Any Other Medical Procedure

S. 1696 says states cannot regulate abortion differently from any other “medically comparable procedure.”

If by “medically comparable procedure,” it means “outpatient surgery,” then that is not a problem.

Surgical abortion still is not as heavily regulated as other outpatient procedures. In most outpatient surgical centers, everything from the type ceiling used in surgery rooms to hallway widths to carpet-flooring can be regulated, because those things actually factor into patient health and safety. No one wants a ceiling tile falling on a doctor during surgery; bacteria festering in shag carpet; or hallways too narrow for an ambulance gurney to navigate.

These types of regulations are rarely applied to abortion clinics, despite the fact surgical abortion is an outpatient procedure often involving anesthesia and carrying risks like infection, severe hemorrhaging, and death.

Chemical abortions, likewise, often are not as regulated as other chemical procedures. Doctors cannot give a minor simple pain relievers without parental consent in many cases, and yet somehow giving a teenager an abortifacient without even notifying her parents is acceptable in the minds of many abortion advocates.

In Arkansas we have had to fight repeatedly for parental consent and parental notification laws that ensure parents are not bypassed when a child is seeking an abortion.

But somehow, I don’t think any of that is what Sen. Blumenthal means by “comparable.”

If by “comparable,” he means, “other procedures where an unborn child is killed,” then there really is nothing with which to compare abortion.

As a specific procedure, abortion stands alone. No other procedure is as controversial. No other procedure is performed expressly for the purpose of ending a pregnancy (and, I would add, a human life).

Because there is nothing with which to compare abortion in this sense, there is no way to say what it means to regulate abortion in a manner consistent with “medically comparable procedures.”

This effectively could be the same as saying, “Don’t regulate it at all.”


S. 1696 effectively undermines state abortion regulations, and it represents an overreach by the federal government.

Prior to 1973 abortion was largely regulated on a state-by-state basis. With the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Dole v. Bolton, abortion moved from the purview of the states to the federal government.

For the past 41 years, courts have slowly put abortion regulations back into the hands of the states. And as Americans become increasingly pro-life, abortion is falling out of favor.

S. 1696 is an effort to trump sensible abortion laws and put abortion regulations back into the hands of the federal government. It rolls the clock back on abortion, and it fails to recognize human life as something sacred that needs protecting.

I highly doubt S. 1696 has any chance of passing, given Congress’s current makeup and the fact that few lawmakers probably want to vote on something so controversial during an election year. But that really doesn’t make the bill itself any better.