The recently leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization signals what many of us have feared would happen: At least 5 right-wing Supreme Court justices seem poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and abolish the constitutional right of women to have an abortion.
In my view, the United States Senate cannot and it must not allow that to happen.
We cannot go back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. We cannot go back to the days of back alley abortions.
We cannot go back to the days of forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy or go through a childbirth that could cause her illness, injury, or death.
In America today, it is estimated that one out of every 4 women will choose to have an abortion by the time they turn 45. In 2019, over 625,000 women in America chose to have an abortion.
While no one can say with any degree of certainty how many deaths there will be if abortion is made illegal and women are forced to carry unsafe pregnancies to term, there is no doubt that many thousands of them will die.
The decision about an abortion must be a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.
That is why I rise this evening in strong support of the Women’s Health Protection Act.
This legislation would make Roe v. Wade the law of the land.
But let me be as clear as I can be, M. President. It is not good enough to just talk about passing this bill.
If there are not 60 votes in the Senate to pass this legislation, and there are not, we must end the filibuster and pass it with 50 votes.
You know, I hear a lot of talk from my Democratic colleagues about the need for unity. Well, if there was ever a time for unity, now is that time.
Let us not forget how we got to where we are today.
Five years ago, Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to do what they could not do legislatively: Make abortion illegal. They ended the filibuster.
Candidate Donald Trump promised that he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who supported overturning Roe v. Wade. And, unfortunately, out of the many lies Trump made during his campaign and presidency, this seems to be the one promise he kept. It has become increasingly clear that despite these statements to the contrary, the three justices nominated by Trump were hired specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Well, you know what I believe, Mr. President: If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to make abortion legal and safe.
Let’s be clear. If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe, abortion bans will immediately go into effect in 22 states in America with four others likely to follow suit. In ten of those states, it will be illegal to have an abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
For example, in the state of Texas, if Roe v. Wade is struck down, it will be considered a felony for any Texas doctor to perform an abortion for a woman who was raped or impregnated by a family member. Further, that law would actually criminalize abortion — punishing both women and doctors, who could face years in prison if they are found guilty.
Other states have passed similar types of legislation. Mississippi’s Governor has even refused to rule out the banning of contraception as a next step.
But, M. President, let’s be clear. The Supreme Court will not be able to ban abortion.
If you are wealthy and you have the means to get on an airplane or drive hundreds of miles – you will always have access to a safe abortion. But if you are poor or if you are in the working class you will not.
The reality is that overturning Roe would be devastating for working class and low-income women who don’t have the means to travel long distances to a clinic.
M. President: This issue is often framed as a “woman’s issue.” I disagree. This is a human rights issue and, if there’s ever a time in American history where the men of this country must stand with the women — this is that moment.
M. President, I find it somewhat amusing that the loudest voices in the Republican Party demanding that women be forced to give birth against their will are exactly the same people who oppose virtually every piece of legislation designed to improve life for children and their mothers.
Let’s be clear: When it comes to the rights of women, we cannot go backwards. We must move forward.
We cannot go back to the days when women could not have full access to birth control.
We cannot go back to the days of wide-scale domestic violence against women.
The time has come for all of us to protect and expand women’s rights in America.