A Democratic congressman grilled a Catholic female law professor on her beliefs about contraception during a congressional hearing for a pro-abortion bill on Wednesday.
During a committee hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act—a bill that could threaten existing state abortion regulations—73 year-old Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C) questioned law professor Teresa Stanton Collett about her stance on “contraception as a means of birth control.”
“Where are you on contraception?” Butterfield asked the female professor.
“I am post-menopausal, Congressman, so that’s really not a relevant question to me,” Collett answered.
Collett teaches at law at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is director of her law school's Prolife Center. She has served on the Pontifical Council for the Family: she was first appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, and Pope Francis subsequently renewed her mandate.
In 2013 she was also a delegate to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) for the Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
On Wednesday, she testified at the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 2975) (S. 1645).
The bill was introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). It seeks to expand legal abortion by subjecting state regulations of it to increased legal scrutiny.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, called the legislation a “radical and egregiously misnamed” law that would allow for “abortion on demand through [to] birth.”
The bill could be used to overturn state abortion regulations, such as safety laws for clinics and abortionists, informed consent provisions, parental notification laws, and restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks.
At the hearing Wednesday, committee chair Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) also brought up contraception. She noted that the lack of large families among her fellow members of Congress suggested t her that widespread provision of contraception is “working.”
“Very little is being said about contraception,” Eshoo, a Catholic, said while arguing for the effectiveness of contraceptives in reducing abortions.
“There are very few here that have 11, 12, and 15 children, so something is working somewhere,” she said, looking around the hearing room.
In addition to possibly overturning state abortion laws, the bill in question—which has 215 cosponsors in the House and 42 cosponsors in the Senate— could also override conscience protections for medical professionals. The bill would require a health care entity to provide abortions, if any delay to do so is deemed unsafe by a doctor or nurse, or the mother—without sufficient protections for conscience or religious-based objections.
Additionally, the bill would “supercede” all federal laws “notwithstanding” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), meaning that health care professionals or hospitals that object to providing abortions on religious or conscience grounds would not have recourse to religious freedom protections like RFRA.
The bill’s text does allow for states to defend their safety regulations of abortion, but demands that the evidence must be “clear and convincing” that the state law “significantly advances the safety of abortion services or the health of patients.” Also, it requires that patient safety “cannot be advanced by a less restrictive alternative measures or action.”
The Charlotte Lozier Institute says the bill would impose “a heightened burden of proof” on state laws that even the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute has termed “unusually strict.”
In addition to Collett, witnesses who testified before the committee on Wednesday was Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.
Forney highlighted the work of groups serving post-abortive women, who often experience nightmares, depression, eating disorders, suicidal feelings or attempts, addiction, and low self-esteem, he said, calling their suffering a testament to the destructive nature of abortion. She singled out the work of Rachel’s Vineyard, which provides more than 1,000 retreats for post-abortive women each year in 49 states and 70 countries.
“If abortion is no big deal, why are all these people going through healing programs?” Forney asked.
While abortion supporters might argue that state and local laws are reducing the number of abortion clinics statewide, Collett said that 54% of counties in the U.S. have no hospitals with obstetric services.
“That is an outrage. If you were really concerned about women’s health, that would be your primary concern,” she said.
The bill says abortion is “central to women’s ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the United States.”
Yet abortions have declined by more than 50% from 1991-2016, she said, as the participation of women in the workforce has been “largely steady.”
“Women are succeeding in this society while abortion rates are falling rapidly,” she said.