WASHINGTON — Republicans argued at a House Judiciary hearing Thursday that the controversial Texas SB 8, which bans abortions after the first detection of a fetal heart beat at six weeks, would protect mothers and children alike and aid in ending abortion procedures nationwide. 

“Abortion is not healthcare,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio. “There are still far too many abortions in this country” and SB 8, Chabot argued, would alleviate that count.

Democrats, on the other hand, argued that the bill is neither a stopgap for abortion procedures nor a durable solution to long-standing issues of reproductive healthcare — and does not diminish the nationwide need for abortions, “in Texas or anywhere else in the country,” said Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

In emotional testimony about her own experience having two abortions in her youth, Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, co-executive director of the Florida Access Network, explained that limiting abortion access will not alleviate women’s ongoing need for abortions. 

Republicans repeatedly alleged that resistance to SB 8 equated to coercive advocacy for abortions across the board. But providers and pro-choice advocates aren’t forcing abortions, said UC Berkeley law professor Khiara M. Bridges, but addressing a need. 

The level of need cannot be regulated by legislating against abortion, but rather must be addressed at the root. Unwanted pregnancies are due to barriers to “obtaining safe, effective contraception” and issues of geography, economy and societal stigma, Bridges said. 

And that societal stigma is perpetuated by restrictions and requirements for women seeking abortions, Nadler said. 

“Even before SB 8, women were required to make multiple appointments, receive medically unnecessary sonograms and listen to falsely misleading anti-abortion propaganda,” Nadler said. 

Women must also seek, find and travel to an abortion provider, and pay for the procedure out-of-pocket. Clearing these hurdles push women further into their pregnancy before they are even allowed to undergo the procedure — often well past the six-week mark delineated in SB 8.

“None of these rules and restrictions are science-based or medically necessary,” Nadler said. “They are designed to stop women from accessing abortion and to control women’s lives, plain and simple.”

Experts also argued that legislative steps to block abortion access and penalize medical practitioners for performing them only legitimize aggressive and violent anti-choice activism.

“I am followed into my job. I am screamed at,” said Ghazaleh Moayedi, an OB/GYN and a board member at both Physicians for Reproductive Health and the Texas Equal Access Fund, on the daily harassment and stalking she faces from anti-abortion rights activists. “My child is screamed at by people that purport to love children. I get hate messages and death threats to my home simply for caring for my community.” 

These threats are only exacerbated by what Nadler called SB 8’s “perverse bounty system,” which financially incentivizes private citizens to sue physicians who provide abortions.

“The system was built to create fear, anxiety and isolation for women and for providers in the state,” Nadler said. “And in many ways, it has succeeded.”

Also central to the conversation were questions of constitutionality, and of Congress’s role in discussing SB 8, which will be brought before the Supreme Court in December. 

Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, argued that today’s hearing was part of a concerted Democratic effort to “intimidate the Supreme Court” and “sensationalize a legal question to delegitimize the Court’s role in interpreting the law.” 

During oral arguments for the cases Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas this Monday, Justice Bret Kavanaugh conceded that SB 8 could set precedent allowing states to override any constitutionally protected right it may disagree with.