US Senate panel members argue over effects of abortion ruling on black patients
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday began combing through dozens of state laws that have gone into effect in the two weeks since the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, and heard from witnesses who said the effect on black patients would be particularly severe.
“People of color, especially black people, will feel the impact of the court’s decision in Dobbs more than any other racial group,” said Khiara M. Bridges, a law professor at UC Berkeley School of Law. , referring to the decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women due to multiple factors, including structural racism.
But Bridges’ comments led to an acrimonious exchange with Republican senators in which they questioned whether she was advocating for more abortions for black patients.
“You think there should be more aborted black babies, don’t you?” Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is white, asked him. Bridges, who is black, replied that the government should create the conditions for people to “lead a life filled with dignity and humanity”.
Witnesses and sharply divided Democrats and Republicans in the tense hearing also argued over the protests, vandalism, violence and other crimes that have existed in the shadows of the abortion debate for decades.
Democrats recalled abortion providers and clinic workers killed by anti-abortion zealots, while Republicans condemned violence against anti-abortion pregnancy centers.
The hearing is one of four this week in which congressional panels will examine the changing health care and legal landscape after conservative justices ruled late last month that the court would not defend plus the fundamental right to abortion that had existed across the country for nearly five decades.
Democrats questioned how the decision could harm patient health and increase maternal mortality, while Republicans argued the decision should be celebrated for sending the contentious issue to state legislatures.
Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said GOP state lawmakers may soon pass laws to jail women who seek to terminate pregnancies.
“Some Republican lawmakers have even sought to punish women seeking abortions,” Durbin said. “For example, in Louisiana, Republican lawmakers sought to advance a bill in May that would have subject women who terminate their pregnancies to criminal homicide charges.”
Anti-abortion groups have long said they view abortion patients as victims and said they believe criminal laws should focus on health care providers who perform abortions.
women of color
Tuesday’s hearing included testy exchanges about the impact the state’s abortion restrictions will have on women of color.
Bridges said the abortion rate among blacks is three to four times higher than among white patients. This, she said, is a direct result of a higher rate of “unintended pregnancy, which in turn is due to higher poverty rates among black people.”
Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, a Democrat, said abortion clinics in the state had seen the number of out-of-state patients double in the two weeks since the release. in the opinion of the court.
Stratton said she expects that number to grow as additional laws come into effect in the weeks and months ahead.
Stratton, who is black, also expressed concern about how abortion restrictions and bans would affect the health of black women, who are more likely to experience maternal mortality than white or Hispanic women.
The CDC says these factors include vaquality health care, underlying chronic illnesses, structural racism and implicit biases.
“A post-Roe America will be devastating for black women, whose maternal mortality rate is already two to three times higher than that of white women due to structural racism and misogyny,” Stratton said.
Stratton then explained what legal and safe access to abortion means for black women in response to a question from Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.
Booker, who is black, said GOP senators have made it seem like “access to safe abortion care is somehow racist against African Americans.”
Having access to safe abortions, Stratton said, is “liberating for black women.”
“To be able to have bodily autonomy and the ability to decide what’s best for their body for their life and their future,” Stratton said.
Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, asked Bridges about the structural racism she mentioned earlier in the day that has led to higher numbers of abortions among black patients, and asked her if she thought “that ‘there should be more aborted black babies’.
When she said conditions need to be created for people to lead dignified lives, Cornyn went on to ask if, in her way of thinking, does this happen when more black babies are aborted?
Bridges replied that she trusted black people with the ability to think through the implications of pregnancy. “I think they have agency, they have intelligence, they know what’s best for them, and I’d like to create the conditions where they can live a life of dignity and humanity. “
Utah GOP Senator Mike Lee, who is white, spoke out in favor of the Supreme Court’s ruling and against abortion, saying the choice to end a pregnancy disproportionately falls on women in color.
“I hope to see states enact stronger protections for life, including laws banning abortions based on the baby’s race, gender or disability,” he said. “I hope these laws will protect all babies, including black babies.”
Durbin and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, began the hearing by condemning the violence, saying that was not the answer.
Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton raised protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as property crimes against anti-abortion pregnancy centers and d other organisations, before asking the five witnesses to condemn the acts of violence.
“Across the board, violence is unacceptable,” Stratton said. “We know that arson, bombings, assaults, which have increased exponentially, harassment, have increased by 600% since 2020 against those who perform abortions.”
“I therefore condemn any act of violence and absolutely do not believe that anyone should face threats to their well-being and safety. But this should apply equally at all levels.
Denise Harle, senior attorney and director of the Center For Life at the conservative and anti-abortion legal group Alliance for Defending Freedom, said she condemned the violence but added that she believed abortion was an act of violence.
Bridges condemned the violence, before citing statistics that showed an increase in blockades outside abortion clinics, the planting of bomb-like pranks, invasions of clinics and beatings.
Heidi Matzke, executive director of the Alternatives Pregnancy Center in California, which has doctors and nurses on staff and says it “offers hopeful alternatives to the choice of abortion.” stated that “violence should never be exercised on anyone, at any time”.
“Pregnancy centers recently since the overthrow, the violence we’ve experienced has been overwhelming and the amount of money we’ve had to protect ourselves…is unbelievable,” Matzke said.
Dr. Colleen P. McNicholas, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwestern Missouri, said she appreciated Cotton’s outrage over the violence before reading the names of nine providers. providers and clinic workers who have been killed for performing abortions. , or were in a clinic.
“Echoing all of my fellow panelists here, I absolutely condemn violence against everyone, including abortion providers,” she said.