The debate over abortion rights has flared up again on Capitol Hill after the Supreme Court refused earlier this month to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions. With other states rushing to enact similar restrictions, and the court, now dominated by conservatives, preparing to take up a case that could overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, Democrats are making the issue a centerpiece of their campaign strategy for next year’s midterm elections.
They are also seeking to advance legislation that would codify the Roe decision; the House last week passed the Women’s Health Protection Act to do just that. But the bill has little chance of advancing in the closely divided Senate, where Republicans are strongly opposed.
Thursday’s hearing, which also featured a virtual appearance by the women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, demonstrated the depth of that partisan split. Representatives James R. Comer of Kentucky, Republican of Kentucky, insisted that Congress must continue to ban taxpayer-funded abortions, while Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said she felt “profound sorrow” for women who terminated their pregnancies.
“Instead of glorifying this awful act of desperation, we ought to grieve for the tens of millions of Americans who never had a chance to take their first breath, to see their mother’s face,” Ms. Foxx said.
A recent NBC poll found that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That included clear majorities of women, suburbanites and people living in the Northeast. But majorities of evangelical Christians, rural Americans, and Southerners said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
The hearing, entitled “A Dire State: Examining the Urgent Need to Protect and Expand Abortion Rights and Access in the United States,” also revealed how the issue of abortion is intertwined with America’s racial divide. Ms. Bush described how belittled she felt, as a Black teenager, “in being told that if I had this baby, I would wind up on food stamps and welfare.”
Representative Ayana S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is Black, spoke in her opening statement of how denying abortion care affects people of color, including “our lowest income sisters; our queer, trans and nonbinary siblings.”