Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) ruffled some feathers during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 28) when he started breaking down what happens during an abortion. One of the witnesses, who had undergone an abortion one year prior, described his graphic description as a form of ‘fear-mongering.’ Here’s everything you need to know!

Senators Examine The Economic Impact Of Abortion Restrictions

Senators from both sides of the aisle found themselves at a standstill on Wednesday when they debated whether abortion restrictions had any impact on the economy. It was the first time the Senate Budget Committee held such a hearing, and things were as intense as you’d expect.

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Most Democrats agree that reproductive rights are essential to a strong economy – including Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse, who said ‘reproductive rights are intrinsically tied to economic opportunity’ during his opening statement. Meanwhile, Republicans feel the opposite.

Sen. Kennedy Questions Several Witnesses

Kennedy has long championed pro-life values and has heavily opposed abortion since taking office in 2017. As a Minority Member of the Committee on the Budget, he had an opportunity to question several witnesses during the hearing – some of whom were invited by Republicans, and some by Democrats.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Treasurer Ron Henson

Most notable were his encounters with Caitlin Myers (a witness for the Democrats), Leslie Ford (a witness for the Republicans), Allie Phillips (who gave a testimony), and Chairman Whitehouse (who eventually cut Kennedy off). Let’s take a closer look at each encounter.

Witness #1: Caitlin Myers

Caitlin Myers has been an economics professor at Middlebury College since 2005. She teaches Regression Analysis, Empirical Economic Research, and Data Science Across Disciplines – heavily focusing on the effects reproductive policies have on the economy.

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At one point during her testimony, Myers said that ‘the decision of whether and when to become a mother is the single largest economic decision many women will make in their lifetimes’ – aligning herself with key Democratic values. This, of course, caught the attention of Kennedy.

Fetus vs. Baby

Kennedy asked Myers if she agreed with Whitehouse’s statement that ‘reproductive justice is economic justice.’ She went on to agree, but clarified that she would use the word ‘rights’ instead of ‘justice.’ She also disagreed with Kennedy’s use of the word ‘baby,’ and clarified that she would refer to it as a ‘fetus.’

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Kennedy proceeded to ask Myers if there was any economic justice for the baby and if she would ‘support abortion up to the moment of birth.’ She danced around the question. “I’m sorry. I don’t really understand. I’m not here to talk about ethics, assignment of personhood. That’s not my role,” she said.

Witness #2: Leslie Ford

Leslie Ford, who was invited by Republicans, is currently an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s Center on Opportunity and Social Mobility. Her primary research areas include poverty, safety net programs, and welfare.

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She previously served as a domestic policy adviser and special assistant to former president Donald Trump between 2018 and 2020, and as a legislative adviser to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). During her time in Washington, she oversaw the development of 22 legislations and 50+ amendments.

Dilation and Evacuation Procedure

During the Senate hearing, Kennedy asked Ford a series of yes-or-no questions about abortion – most of which were extremely graphic. He also displayed a giant poster of a 21-week-old fetus before describing (in great detail) what happens during a dilation and evacuation procedure.

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“And [the doctor] might start with the legs and pull them out, and the arms and pull them out, right? And then she might go for the heart or the spine and just pull the baby out piece by piece. Is that right? Without giving the baby pain medication?” he asked Ford – and she agreed.

Chair Sheldon Whitehouse Cuts Kennedy Off

It wasn’t until Kennedy got to the final step in the procedure – removing the head – that Chair Sheldon Whitehouse decided to step in. “And then she’d pull the head out, the crushed skull out, right?” Kennedy said, before Whitehouse clocked Kennedy out.

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“Senator Kennedy, your time has expired here,” Whitehouse said. Kennedy argued that others were given more time than him, but Whitehouse wasn’t hearing it. “I’m sorry you don’t want to hear about what happens in an actual abortion, but [I thought] that was what we were here to talk about,” Kennedy argued.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow Apologizes To Allie Phillips

After cutting Kennedy off, Whitehouse gave Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) the floor – and she didn’t waste any time before grilling Kennedy for his comments. She also apologized to Allie Phillips, who gave a prepared testimony earlier in the hearing.

Source: Flickr/Senator Stabenow

“Mrs. Phillips, I’m so sorry you just had to hear that and particularly as you’re talking about the one year anniversary of what you had to go through,” she said. “It was shameful, and I’m very, very sorry. No one here should be judging you or any other woman who has to make decisions based on their life and what’s happening in their pregnancy.”

Phillips Gave Testimony Moments Before

The one-year anniversary that Stabenow brought up was the one-year anniversary of Phillips’ abortion – which she spoke about during the hearing. She found out she was pregnant with her second child in Nov. 2022, but later learned that her daughter ‘was not compatible with life’ at the 19-week mark.

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They decided termination was the only way to prevent harming the mother, but there was one problem – Tennessee, where she was born and raised, placed a statewide ban on abortions. She ended up traveling to New York City (alone) and underwent an emergency abortion at 21 weeks.

Phillips Criticizes Kennedy’s Comments

Phillips made it a point to criticize Kennedy after the hearing – alluding to the poster he used of a 21-week-old fetus, on the one-year anniversary of her own abortion at 21 weeks.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Treasurer Ron Henson

“Senator Kennedy came to this hearing knowing that there was going to be a mother here who had to make the difficult decision to terminate a 20-week pregnancy, and he decided it was in his best interest to show a 21-week fetus,” Phillips said. “And his testimony was nothing but fearmongering.”

Kennedy Receives A+ Rating For Pro-Life Values

John Kennedy was the Treasurer of Louisiana between 2000 and 2017, but has served as one of Louisiana’s Senators since 2017. He’s one of the Senate’s biggest supporters of pro-life values and is regularly applauded by those who share those values.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Treasurer Ron Henson

For example, he recently received an A+ rating by the Susan B. Anthony List National Pro-Life Scorecard – which rates leaders and legislators on their commitment to protecting the lives of the unborn. Kennedy received his rating in Jan. 2024.

Kennedy Opposes FDA Chemical Abortion Pill

Even more recently, Sen. Kennedy joined a group of other pro-life Republicans – including Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) – in filing an amicus brief challenging FDA’s dangerous abortion pill policy on Feb. 29.

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“The FDA’s move to make abortion pills available by mail-without so much as a doctor’s visit-puts women and babies in danger. It’s also illegal. The Supreme Court should stop the FDA before at-home abortions steal more lives,” said Kennedy.