June 19, 2019

Cardin Statement on Attacks on Access to Reproductive Health Care

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee delivered the following floor statement today regarding recent attacks on access to reproductive health care.

“I rise to express my deep concern over the constant attacks on women’s health we are seeing all across America. From this administration’s policies, to Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, to Governors and legislators in States like Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri under Republican leadership—they are denying women their constitutional right to make their own personal and healthcare decisions.

“Women and their healthcare should not be under constant threat. We as a nation have made great efforts to promote equal rights for women and men. In this Congress, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. It took a long time for women to get the right to vote, and we continue to make progress on equality. Yet, in the 21st century, the Trump administration continues to push and adopt policies that are setting this country and women in a wrong direction.

“The Supreme Court made it clear in Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade that there is a constitutional right to privacy that includes making healthcare decisions such as the use of contraception and the right to access abortion. Through advancements in women’s health and access to contraception and education, the number of unintended pregnancies has significantly been reduced, with a corresponding reduction in abortion. Yet we see Republican leaders trying to reverse the advancements our Nation has made in women’s health, access to contraception, and education.

“For nearly 50 years, the Supreme Court has upheld the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade, including its affirmation in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. In that case, the Supreme Court held that ‘our law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage . . . contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. . . . These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.’ The Court prohibited States from passing statutes that placed undue burdens on a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. Yet Republican leaders continue to introduce and pass laws that interfere with a women’s autonomy over her health and well-being.

“Last week, for instance, the Republican Governor of Alabama signed a bill into law banning almost all abortions in that State, with no exceptions for the cases of rape or incest. The law not only prosecutes women, but it also includes unprecedented criminal penalties against doctors, threatening them with life in prison for treating women. The Alabama law exposes doctors to felony charges punishable by up to 99 years in prison for providing or attempting to provide an abortion, making this the most extreme ban of its kind to pass in nearly 30 years.

“Since the beginning of 2019, bills attempting to restrict abortion have been filed in 45 States, including Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia. Earlier this year, Georgia’s Republican Governor signed a 6-week ban into law that would make it illegal for women to terminate a pregnancy and a doctor to perform the termination after a fetal heartbeat is detected. I must tell you, many women don’t even realize they are pregnant at 6 weeks. The Alabama and Georgia bills impose burdensome and medically unnecessary limitations on women and their doctors, particularly those in low-income, medically underserved areas. The bills harm women who are victims of sexual assault and minors who are victims of incest. These provisions appear to be designed to perpetrate a culture of not believing women and trying to discredit the victims of assault.

“It is hard to understand how many Republicans are talking about getting Big Government out of people’s lives but not when it comes to one of the hardest and most intimate decisions a woman can make—a decision that she wishes to make between herself and her doctor. In those circumstances, these same colleagues believe that Big Government, and not the woman herself, knows better. They believe that government, and not the woman, should dictate whether she can or cannot have control of her own body. They believe that government should have the power to force a woman to forgo a medically necessary procedure. They believe that women should be stripped of that power and stripped of the choice to decide what is best for herself. Many believe that even in cases of incest and rape, where the woman is a victim of a crime, that the woman should be compelled to bear the child against her will and bring the pregnancy to term. Talk about being intrusive. Basically, the rights of women are being trampled to death. I thought we had gotten beyond that, and now we see that we are moving in the wrong direction.

“Empowering women is one of the most important things we can do for the future of our country. Core to women’s constitutional liberties is autonomy over their own health and well- being. If we truly want to support women, we need to safeguard and improve, not limit, access to comprehensive healthcare. I hope we can all agree that on this 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we should be looking at ways to remove discrimination based upon sex and not moving in the wrong direction by taking away from women their right to make their own healthcare decisions.”

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