WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday, on what National Right to Life President Carol Tobias calls "the most radical pro-abortion bill ever considered by Congress."
Sponsors of S1696, or the Women's Health Protection Act, say they're just trying to undo a rash of state laws meant to restrict abortion.
But opponents of the measure say it is a serious attack on states' rights and would enshrine abortion-on-demand right up until birth as the law of the land.
"The bill being advanced today would literally overturn hundreds of pro-life, pro-woman laws across the country," Mallory Quiqley, of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told CBN News.
Carol Tobias, with the National Right to Life, testified at the Senate hearing today. She explains what she heard from leaders and how you can make your voice heard, following this report.
How can you make your voice heard? Contact your senator here.
"We're talking laws to end sex-selection abortion, third-trimester abortions, abortion on babies that are more than five months old and capable of feeling pain. This is an extreme bill," she charged.
Why would Democrat lawmakers push such a bill in a country that polls suggest is becoming increasingly pro-life?
Some analysts say Democratic lawmakers are looking to the November 2014 elections and the fact that they might lose their narrow control of the Senate. They may view these next few weeks as their last window to pass any serious liberal legislation.
Co-sponsors of S1696 say it's needed to counteract what they label "underhanded laws" supposedly meant to protect women's health, but actually aimed at curbing abortions. They pointed out how many of these laws have been passed in the last three years.
"States across this country have enacted a total of 205 provisions that restrict women's safe access to abortion services," Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., one of the bill's co-sponsors, told the Senate panel Tuesday.
Another co-sponsor, Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., added, "These obstacles have placed many women in desperate circumstances, some of which may well endanger their lives. We need laws that put women's health and safety first, not politics."
Nancy Northrup, with the Center for Reproductive Rights, told senators women must go to court repeatedly to fight these state laws that she believes are unconstitutional.
"Two-hundred of these underhanded laws have been passed," Northrup testified. "And it is not right that women should have to go to court year after year after year to get the medical services that the Constitution guarantees them."
A States' Rights Issue
But some testifying at Tuesday's Senate hearing said S1696 is actually an unconstitutional attack on the states.
"Essentially this law guts states' rights with respect to abortion," Dr. Monique Chireau, with Duke University's Obstretics/Gynecology Department, testified. "It creates abortion as a special protected class of procedure and abortion providers as a special protected class of providers."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., warned Democrats they're risking the wrath of voters by appearing so enamored of abortion rights.
"Many of your constituents perceive that this body is out of touch with the consensus opinion in this country," Blackburn told the senators. "Public opinion polls show time and again that the American people support limits on abortion."
Thirty-five senators, all Democrats, have co-sponsored S1696 and there are 124 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But analysts say with pro-life Republicans in firm control of the House, there's virtually no chance for the bill to become law.
So they're speculating that many Democrats are making a show of supporting the bill as a way to garner favor with pro-choice voters come the November 2014 elections.
Critics warn this bill would wipe out bans on elective abortions after 20 weeks. They say it would curb or end opt-out provisions for medical professionals who don't want to perform abortions.
It would also wipe out reflection or waiting periods before a woman would be allowed to proceed with getting an abortion.