WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, an opponent of late-term abortion, spoke from the Senate floor today to outline concerns about legislation that would ban such abortions, even when the physical health of the woman is at risk of serious harm.
In her remarks, Senator Collins presented circumstances in which exceptions should apply. Senator Collins also points out that exceptions for the health of the woman have been adopted in almost every country in Europe that limits late-term abortion, and also in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Senator Collins’ remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I am opposed to late-term abortions and would support legislation to ban them except in unusual circumstances. A carefully drawn, short list of exceptions to apply to those rare cases should have been included in this bill. Regrettably, the bill before us provides no exception for when the physical health of the woman is at risk of serious harm, the most glaring deficiency in this legislation.
Let me give three examples of devastating conditions that could threaten the physical health of a pregnant woman. An extremely serious condition triggered by pregnancy in some women is preeclampsia, which tends to develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. This condition can lead to serious long-term health consequences for a woman, including liver and kidney problems, vision disturbances, seizures, and strokes. Another example would be a woman diagnosed with cancer who requires chemotherapy or radiation, but cannot be treated while pregnant. A massive infection such a severe sepsis is yet another case of a grave illness that could cause grievous harm to a woman’s physical health.
Almost every country in Europe that limits late-term abortions, allows for exceptions for the physical health of the woman. Like these European countries, states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and others that ban late term abortions provide an exception for the health as well as the life of the woman. But the bill before us does not.
I have advocated that we add language that would provide an exception when the woman is at “serious risk of grievous injury to her physical health.” Mr. President, that is an appropriately high standard to meet, but one which would allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy when the alternative is serious harm to her physical health.
Under this bill, Mr. President, a doctor who performed such an abortion after 20 weeks to prevent grievous physical injury to the pregnant woman would be subject to criminal penalties of up to five years in prison. Do we really want to make a criminal out of a physician who is trying to prevent a woman with preeclampsia from suffering damage to her kidneys or liver or having a stroke or seizures?
Do we want the threat of prison for a doctor who knows that his pregnant patient needs chemotherapy or radiation treatments?
If a woman has the terrible misfortune to have a serious infection of the amniotic fluid that threatens her physical health and her ability to have children in the future, do we want her doctor to be unable to perform an abortion because he faces the prospect of years in prison if he terminates her pregnancy?
Mr. President, the way that the rape and incest exceptions to this bill are drafted is also problematic. I do not question the good motives of the sponsors of this bill, as I share their goal of prohibiting late-term abortions. My point, however, is that these language problems could all be solved, and then we might well be able to enact a law that would accomplish the goal of ending late-term abortions except in those unusual cases where an exception is warranted. Therefore, Mr. President, I shall cast my vote in opposition to this well-meaning, but flawed bill.
Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks from the Senate Floor