Thousands of pages of documents from states on abortion activities requested by two House committees offer "no support" to Republican state-level calls for tougher abortion laws, according to a report released Wednesday by pro-choice activists.
The report comes as a number of states, including Arkansas and Texas, have passed restrictive new abortion laws that many see as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
But documents sent to Congress from 46 states and the District show that abortion is "highly regulated" and "overwhelmingly safe," wrote Sharona Coutts, director of research and investigations at RH Reality Check, an online publication on reproductive and sexual health issues.
They also show that now-imprisoned "house of horrors" abortionist Kermit Gosnell — often cited in the push for new laws and regulations — was "an outlier," and his Philadelphia clinic shouldn't be used as a justification to go after all abortion providers, said Jodi Jacobson, RH Reality Check editor-in-chief.
"The states themselves reveal that no such pattern [of Gosnell incidents] exists. There's really no better evidence that you can get than what both health departments and state attorneys general are telling you," she said.
The states' documents, requested in May, provide details about state laws and disciplinary actions related to abortion providers, as well as enforcement activities related to the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. Documentation was requested for 2008 to 2013.
But Rep. Trent Franks, who is chairman of a key House Judiciary subcommittee and was one of the House Republicans who asked states for abortion data, said Wednesday that undercover investigations from pro-life groups like Live Action have collected video evidence showing "the actions and mentality of the Kermit Gosnell clinic are not limited to Pennsylvania."
Serious questions are being raised about abortion providers in Arizona, Maryland, Texas, New Mexico, Florida and New York, said the Arizona Republican, adding that Gosnell "is not a mere one-off anomaly in today's abortion industry."
Aides for the House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee, who spoke on background, said they were still collecting responses from state health departments and attorneys general.
"Conclusions made at this point are premature," said one aide.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said, "RH Reality Check should let Congress do the work the American people elected it to do."
"This investigation began in the wake of gruesome evidence of a multistate breakdown of oversight in the abortion industry, as well as the barbarism of abortions performed on children capable of feeling pain," Mrs. Dannenfelser said. Most Americans want an end to "grisly abortions in the fifth month" of pregnancy, she said.
The states' documents could play a role in an expected abortion debate this fall in the Senate. In June, the House passed a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks, saying that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at that age. Abortion opponents in the Senate are said to be seeking a debate on that bill.
The committees' request for state records was precipitated by the trial of Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering three newborns and a woman patient. His filthy clinic, staffed by people with little or no formal medical training or credentials, received little state oversight.
RH Reality Check, under public records laws, asked states for copies of their responses to the two House committees.
Drawing from this information, Ms. Coutts found that abortion facilities were regularly inspected and abortion services were "actively and aggressively monitored." States reported very few complaints about abortion providers and even fewer disciplinary actions, leading Ms. Coutts to conclude that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe."
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