Florida Congresswomen Call for an Antidote to Anti-Choice State Laws

On April 27, 2015, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida held a press conference calling for a veto of the state’s mandatory delay bill (SB 724/HB 633), which would impose a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking abortion care. Joined by former state senator Nan Rich, an activist from National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Dr. Karla Maguire of Physicians for Reproductive Health, Rep. Wasserman Schultz highlighted the Women’s Health Protection Act as the antidote to anti-choice state legislation like the Florida bill. Supporters from the local Planned Parenthood, National Council of Jewish Women, and the Center for Reproductive Rights were present to stand with the Congresswoman as she spoke.

 Rep. Wasserman Schultz speaks to the media.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz speaks to the media.

Adding to the drumbeat, on May 5, Rep. Lois Frankel hosted a press conference in West Palm Beach, joined by State Rep. Lori Berman and Mona Reis, founder and CEO of Presidential Women’s Center, to call on Gov. Rick Scott to veto the state’s mandatory delay bill. Frankel also urged support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prevent harmful regulations like forced waiting periods.

Congress Acts for Women

Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Judy Chu reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act in the 114th Congress on January 21, 2015. First introduced in the 113th Congress, the bill (S. 217/ H.R. 448) had 32 original cosponsors in the Senate and 72 in the House—a substantial success. These Congress members recognize that the Women’s Health Protection Act is a key proactive measure to fight back against a wave of restrictions at the state and federal levels.

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a lead cosponsor of the bill, and Congresswomen Chu and Lois Frankel issued press releases upon the reintroduction of the bill. More than a dozen members of Congress tweeted with the #ActforWomen hashtag to mark the reintroduction. State and federal nonprofits also took to social media and the press to highlight the importance of the Women’s Health Protection Act. Fifty-six organizations signed on to endorse the bill.

View the current list of Senate co-sponsors and House co-sponsors.

Senate Hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act

On July 15, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act, “S.1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act: Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights.” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired the hearing, and Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congresswoman Judy Chu provided testimony.

Nancy Northup testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee.
Nancy Northup testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee.

The witness panel in support of the legislation featured Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider in Mississippi, and Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor. Twenty-three organizations submitted written testimony in support of the bill.

The hearing drew a packed crowd, with supporters of the bill lining up several hours before it began to secure seats, and prompted media coverage across the country. Hearings on proactive abortion rights legislation are rare, and this event provided an opportunity for legislators, experts, and state and national organizations to discuss the importance of protecting access to abortion for all women, regardless of where they live.