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US House panel held reproductive freedom hearing in Fort Lauderdale

US House panel held reproductive freedom hearing in Fort Lauderdale
US House panel held reproductive freedom hearing in Fort Lauderdale 03:08

FORT LAUDERDALE - U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries presided over the first field hearing of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. It was held Tuesday at the Broward County Governmental Center.

The focus of the discussion was on the threat to reproductive freedom, from legal threats to contraception and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to outright abortion bans. 

Explaining the abortion issue 03:05

"Nearly two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eroded over 50 years of legal precedent that protected a woman's reproductive freedom. This ruling unleashed an avalanche of far-right anti-choice policies with one clear goal, to ban abortion outright. This flawed Dobbs ruling positioned extremist politicians and judges, fueled by their hard right ideologies, directly between women and their examination room and their health," said Wasserman Schultz in her opening statement.

"It put judges and politicians in women's doctors' offices, at their pharmacy counters, and in their homes. It upended and invaded their right to privacy and their deeply personal space," she added.

Wasserman Schultz said in that time countless proposals have been passed into law that interfere with a person's fundamental right to choose if and when to start a family.

The purpose of the hearing was to give members of Congress the chance to hear directly from women denied necessary health care and community leaders about what must be done to protect reproductive freedom. 

Deborah Dorbert testified that she was forced to carry a troubled pregnancy to term because of Florida law.

"So Florida law forced you to carry the baby until 37 weeks with no amniotic fluid and a certainty that he would not survive?" asked Wasserman Schultz.

"Yes," replied Dorbert.

"What was the impact on your family, on your husband, on your son?" asked the congresswoman.

"We all struggle with our mental health. My four-year-old son had to see a therapist to understand why his brother died. So we all really struggled with our mental health. Obviously, my physical health, it's taken a long time for me to recover and I'm still not recovered from it," said Dorbert.  

After the hearing, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra weighed in on what was heard during the hearing.

The hearing is timely in that on Monday, Florida's Supreme Court upheld the state's 15-week abortion ban. In doing so, it cleared the way for the six-week "heartbeat" ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last April. It will go into effect on May 1st.

"Florida's six week abortion ban is cruel, dangerous, and extreme," said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

On the same day, the high court ruled that a constitutional amendment that would limit government intervention in abortion procedures across Florida meets the requirements to appear on ballots this November.

The measure, which will appear on ballots this fall as Amendment 4, would allow abortions before viability, but it would still require parents to be notified if a minor has an abortion.

"No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health, as determined by the patient's healthcare provider," the ballot measure reads. "This amendment does not change the Legislature's constitutional authority to require notification to a parent or guardian before a minor has an abortion."

Amendment 4 will require 60% support to pass, and if it does pass in November, it will supersede the six-week ban that is about to go into effect.

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