U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

June 24, 2023

Tip of the Iceberg

Push it to the states, they said. That’s all we want, they said.

One year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Roe v. Wade and nearly 50 years of women’s reproductive rights with its Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. It was clear at the time that this was not the end, but the start of a struggle to decide if we as a nation trust women to make decisions about their own bodies and their future.

Overnight, what was considered settled law – precedent – was no more, and the conservative lawmakers who have long sought a national ban on abortion services jumped into action.

Let’s be clear what is at stake: the choice of who decides what a person in this country can do with their own body and reproductive future. Conservatives on the Supreme Court, in Congress and in state legislatures want the government and politicians to make these decisions. I disagree.

These are not easy decisions to make, but the person who is pregnant or might become pregnant needs to be in control of their own body. 

Access to abortion is only the tip of the iceberg.

In his concurrence to the Dobbs decision, Justice Clarence Thomas is clear that he also would like to roll back the clock and wipe away access to family planning and contraception.

In the year since Dobbs re-wrote privacy laws, extremists have moved to restrict access to reproductive health care, including efforts to ban the FDA-approved abortion medication, Mifepristone.

This is a public health crisis that continues to grow. In Texas, for example, abortion laws have become so extreme that five women are now suing the state after being cruelly forced to carry unviable pregnancies, risking their lives.

Restrictions and a lack of reproductive health services will only worsen our national maternal health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women in the U.S. experienced 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021– a death rate for mothers 10 times the rate of other countries with similar incomes like Australia, Japan and Spain. The numbers are particularly high for Black women but also on the rise for white women and Hispanic women.

America has a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYN), which is a contributor to poor maternal healthcare and deaths. This problem is expected to worsen as medical students are choosing to avoid residencies in parts of the country where abortion laws are restrictive.

In Maryland, Gov. Wes Moore and our General Assembly have taken the necessary measures to safeguard access to abortion by allowing Marylanders to vote to enshrine the right to abortion services in our state constitution. His administration also has secured adequate supplies of abortion medications amid efforts to ban the drugs nationally. They have taken action to protect patients and providers through laws that prioritize privacy and shield Maryland providers and out-of-state patients from potential penalties imposed by restrictive states.

Maryland will continue to be a safe haven for those who need reproductive health care.

Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to live in Maryland. As a father and grandfather, it is disturbing to me that my granddaughters now have fewer rights in some states across this country than their mother had when she was their age.

Congress truly needs to act. The most comprehensive legislative response that I am cosponsoring is the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023. Led by my colleague Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), this bill would guarantee the right to access abortion, everywhere across the country and restore the right to comprehensive reproductive health care for millions of Americans.

I’m also a supporter of the Right to Contraception Act which would codify into law the right to contraception so as to prevent further restrictions on reproductive health services. And I have cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act, which prevents anti-choice states from prosecuting patients who travel to Maryland and other states, where reproductive services are legally protected, to get abortions. 

I led the effort in the Senate to remove the arbitrary deadline for the ratification of the long-overdue Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  My joint resolution recently garnered a majority vote of the Senate, but failed due to a filibuster. After Dobbs, we know that existing legal protections against sex-based discrimination fall well short of addressing systematic sex-based inequality.

As the 28th Amendment, the ERA would serve as a new tool – for Congress, for federal agencies, and in the courts – to advance equality when it comes to reproductive autonomy and so many other issues of importance to women.

I applaud the Biden-Harris administration for working to safeguard reproductive health services, particularly for our military service members and veterans, but Congressional action is needed to reverse the disastrous consequences of the Dobbs decision and ensure these rights are not violated in the future.

This has been a tough year for women and all those who believe that individuals should have personal autonomy over their own body. The path forward will be challenging, but we must continue until reproductive rights and the guarantees of Roe v. Wade are restored nationwide.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply back to this email with your thoughts on this or any other issue. I appreciate everyone’s feedback.

Stay well.


Ben Cardin