WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) spoke from the floor of the U.S. Senate late Tuesday night, in advance of today’s vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (S.4132). Cardin is a cosponsor of the legislation. Video of his remarks can be downloaded or viewed at this link.
Following the failed vote, Senator Cardin urged President Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to use their power to act swiftly to safeguard the reproductive rights of Americans.
Senator Cardin’s floor statement on the Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 4132):
“I rise to express the urgent need to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and put an end to the constant attacks that have chipped away at women’s constitutional rights in this country. Now more than ever, it is vital to codify reproductive rights and protect other hard-won civil rights as they face renewed threats.
“Last week, Politico published Supreme Court Associate Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which, while not final, would strike down Roe v. Wade. This would have immediate and devastating consequences for the health and well-being of tens of millions of women of reproductive age across the nation. Women in low-income families, who cannot overcome the financial and logistical barriers to travel to States with abortion access, will suffer the most, increasing existing health disparities.
“While this draft opinion is a reminder of what is at stake, we have seen the erosion of reproductive rights for decades. Despite the clear constitutional rights the Supreme Court established almost 50 years ago in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, each year, legislatures across the country have passed harmful abortion restrictions in an effort to impede a woman’s fundamental right to make the best, informed health care decisions for herself and her family.
“This goes against what I believe to be one of the fundamental responsibilities of the court, which is to expand rights, not restrict them.
“Implementing the Bill of Rights, we’ve seen the federal courts, over a period of time, protect Americans against the abuse of power, including the abuse of power in excess government.
“Should this opinion go into effect, this would be the first time in my memory that the court would act to take away the constitutional rights of Americans. It would also be the first time in our country’s history when women now would have fewer rights than their mothers. The reasoning used in this draft decision could also be used to undermine other dearly-held civil rights in the future. Justice Alito’s leaked draft opinion laid out a roadmap to overturn other landmark decisions that expanded rights, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which affirmed marriage equality.
“Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett all testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court precedents should stand – a bedrock principle of jurisprudence known as stare decisis – but they clearly arrived with an agenda to overturn Roe and now they are making that a reality. Senate Republicans and former President Donald Trump bear responsibility for nominating and confirming justices far outside of the legal mainstream and damaging our confirmation process and the public’s faith in the Supreme Court as an impartial arbiter of our nation’s laws.
“Senate Republicans deliberately stole the seat that President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill and they delayed even having a hearing for one year, effectively shrinking the size of the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans then turned around and rushed the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though early voting had already begun for the 2020 presidential election.
“Overturning Roe goes against public opinion. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 70 percent of Americans believe that the court should uphold Roe and that decisions regarding abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor.
“Now more than ever, it is essential for the Senate pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which I am proud to co-sponsor. The legislation would protect the right to abortion free from medically unnecessary restrictions and create a statutory right for providers to provide and patients to receive care. This would codify Roe v. Wade and prevent states from continuing to enact restrictions on reproductive freedoms.
“Despite the opinion just being a draft and abortion still being a constitutional right, states are already seizing on the momentum of this draft opinion and moving to limit a woman’s constitutional rights.
“Since the leak of the draft opinion, legislatures around the country are rushing to criminalize abortion and outlaw contraception. Just last week, the Louisiana State legislature advanced a bill that would classify abortion as homicide. This adds to the over half of our states that have already passed laws to restrict and ban abortion access. There are more than one dozen States with anti-abortion laws set to take effect immediately if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. The Republican Leader, Mr. McConnell, stated, “If the leaked opinion became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area.” Thanks to five unelected, activist Justices on the Supreme Court, women are facing the prospect of a federal, nationwide ban on abortion services.
“We would go back to those days when abortions were performed illegally in back alleys. We can’t let that happen in this country.
“While many States, including my home State of Maryland, have acted to expand abortion care, we cannot rely on a patchwork of state laws to protect a basic constitutional right. The right to choose is fundamental and a decision that a woman should make in consultation with a doctor or other health care provider, free of political interference from federal, state, or local government.
“I urge President Biden, the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to use their power to act swiftly to safeguard the reproductive rights of Americans.
“There is no denying that this is a bleak moment. We know the battle for reproductive rights has been an ongoing struggle with previous setbacks. We saw this just a few months ago following the anti-choice, pro-vigilante law the Texas legislature passed, which threatens providers with jail time and fines for administering what is still federally and constitutionally protected medical care.
“We cannot wait any longer. We must do everything in our power to ensure access to reproductive services now. Therefore, I urge my colleagues to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.
“And we will have a chance to do that starting tomorrow.
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a steadfast supporter of reproductive rights, and this will not change. Regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote or the Supreme Court’s final decision, I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that women can access the care that they need.”