A proposed bill to protect access to abortion services is a "manifestation of a war on women," Sen. Ted Cruz charged Tuesday.
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Texas Republican questioned the Women's Health Protection Act,
which would prevent states from implementing restrictions—such as doctors' admitting privileges at local hospitals, structural requirements for clinics, mandated waiting periods, and mandated ultrasounds—that make abortion services more difficult to get.
The bill is aimed at actions like those in Texas, which last summer passed a set of restrictive laws that has already closed about a third of the abortion clinics in the state, the National Journal reported.
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There were 40 clinics operating in 2011; 20 are still open, the National Journal notes, and all but six are expected to close.
"This legislation is a very real manifestation of a war on women, given the health consequences that unlimited abortion access has had on many woman," Cruz said of the proposed bill.
Though Democrats say the bill would prevent states from singling out abortions and protect women’s reproductive rights, with no Republican support, the bill has little chance of passing the House and critics dismissed the measure as a political tactic aimed at the midterm election.
"This bill is a weak political ploy," said Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley. "It’s unfortunate that the [Senate] majority is using this issue to appear compassionate and concerned about women's rights when, in reality, the bill disregards popular and common sense laws enacted by various states aimed at protecting women and children across the country."
wrote Tuesday the proposed bill is "so far-reaching in its deregulation of the abortion industry, pro-life advocates have named it the 'Gosnell Prerogative Act,'" referring to Philadelphia physician Kermit Gosnell,
who was convicted of murder.
"This legislation being considered is extreme legislation," Cruz said at the hearing.
"It is legislation designed to eliminate reasonable restrictions on abortion that states have put in place. It is designed to force a radical view from Democrats in the Senate: that abortions should be universally available, without limits, and paid for by the taxpayers."
The National Journal notes states are currently allowed to set abortion regulations, as long as they do not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure. Republicans argue the new bill is broad enough that it would eliminate any state regulation at all.
"The bill is really about just one thing: It seeks to strip away from elected lawmakers the ability to provide even the most minimal protections for unborn children, at any stage of their prenatal development," Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told the National Journal.
"While the proposal is so sweeping and extreme that it would be difficult to capture its full scope in any short title, calling the bill the 'Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act' would be more in line with truth-in-advertising standards."
Republican lawmakers said the Democrat-backed bill was overreaching and interfered with state rights.
"I don’t recall Congress ever passing a law that prohibited states from enacting certain categories of laws simply because Congress says so," said Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
"I can’t imagine why any state legislature would support this no matter their position on abortion."
At the start of Tuesday's hearing, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn held up a photo of her grandson's ultrasound, saying: "I could tell, three months before he was born, that he had my eyes and nose. For a grandmother, that's a really big deal," the National Journal reported.
"We all want what's best for women," she said. "We differ on what that is, and we differ how to get there."
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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