Attorney General Tong Joins Coalition Fighting to Defend Women’s Health and Reproductive Freedom
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general from across the nation in submitting testimony into the congressional record, urging passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would protect the constitutional right to access an abortion by prohibiting unnecessary restrictions — passed at the state level — that undermine the availability and safety of women’s health care services.
“We are witnessing a full-frontal attack on a woman’s right to choose,” Attorney General Tong said. “Now more than ever, as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Dobbs v. Jackson, a case that seeks to strike at the heart of Roe v. Wade, and states like Texas pass stringent abortion bans, it is crucial for Congress to protect women’s reproductive freedom and choice. The Women’s Health Protection Act is a necessary piece of legislation that will eliminate many of the barriers women face seeking access to healthcare services. Congress must pass this law to put a stop to states’ restrictive anti-abortion laws.”
The coalition, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, argues that while legislators in many states may claim that the laws they are enacting are being passed to promote women’s health, the reality is that these laws are simply designed to restrict access to abortion services and, most often, lead to worse health outcomes for women. These include laws requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at hospitals and setting arbitrary requirements at women’s health clinics for the size of procedure rooms and corridors. The proliferation of these restrictions has negatively impacted women’s health — disproportionately affecting low-income communities and communities of color, while simultaneously creating a lack of national consistency that strains states’ health care systems. Most importantly, any law that imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy is unconstitutional.
The Women’s Health Protection Act targets these state laws that have been adopted in a concerted strategy to restrict access to abortion across the nation. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Texas law that required abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital failed to advance women’s health and posed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Additionally, last year, a coalition of attorneys general helped win another victory in June Medical Services v. Gee, in which the Supreme Court held that a similar law in Louisiana was unconstitutional.
As more states try to pass new laws that curtail women’s reproductive freedoms with medically unnecessary restrictions, new court challenges continue to be filed — a process that can often take years. That’s why the coalition is today urging Congress to pass the WHPA to ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the first place.
The consequences of these laws are already evident across the country. Research from 2017 found that 38 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 44 live in counties without a single abortion clinic. Additionally, as of June 2019, six states have only one abortion clinic remaining. As providers close due to the impact of medically unnecessary restrictions, women are likely to be forced to travel farther and make greater sacrifices to obtain access to care. The burden of living in a state with restrictive access to abortion care often falls disproportionately on lower-income women who cannot afford to travel, take time off from work, or find childcare while they visit their nearest provider.
The coalition goes on to assert that laws aimed specifically at restricting abortion providers have proved, time and time again, to lead to worse health outcomes for women, including:
- Increased maternal mortality rates,
- Delayed abortions, as well as increased health risks and costs for women who find themselves too far from an abortion provider,
- The undertaking of dangerous “black market” or self-induced abortions by some women, and
- A four-times higher risk of developing potentially life-threatening health conditions for women who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term, as well as substantially greater likelihood of experiencing physical violence from abusive partners or family members.
Joining Attorney General Tong and James in submitting this testimony to Congress are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.