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Murray on Senate Floor: Attacks on Women's Health Appalling, an Insult to Women Everywhere

Feb 17 2012

"A panel from an oversight hearing held in the House yesterday on women's access to birth control. The only thing was...there weren't any women."



Watch speech HERE

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor about the continued attacks by Congressional Republicans on women’s health care. She highlighted the House Oversight Committee hearing yesterday on contraception, which included only male witnesses to discuss this critical women’s issue.

Key excerpts from the speech today:

"The Chairman of the House Oversight Committee decided that he wouldn’t allow a young woman who had been asked by the minority to testify to tell her story…So this 19 year old woman was left to watch – just like all of the rest of us – as five men addressed the committee about how they supported efforts to restrict access to care.”

 “I’m sure by now many of my colleagues here have seen the picture of this all-male hearing. It’s a picture that says a thousand words. And it’s one that most women thought they left behind when pictures only came in black and white.”

 “There is nothing new about the Republicans’ attacks on our family planning decisions.  In fact from the moment they came into power Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women’s health.”

 “But Republicans have made clear from the start that this isn’t about what’s best for women, men, and their family planning decisions.   This is about their political calculations.  This is about their constituency.  And it’s about their continued push to do whatever it takes to push their extreme agenda.”

The full text of Murray’s remarks follows:

“Mr. President, for millions of American women, reading the news this morning was like stepping into a time machine and traveling back 50 years.

“First, there was this.  A panel from an oversight hearing held in the House yesterday on women’s access to birth control.

“The only thing was….there weren’t any women.

“It turns out that the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee decided that he wouldn’t allow a young woman who had been asked by the minority to testify to tell her story.

“The story of a friend who she said lost an ovary due to a lack of contraception coverage.

“So this 19 year old woman was left to watch – just like all of the rest of us – as five men addressed the committee about how they supported efforts to restrict access to care.

“I’m sure by now many of my colleagues here have seen the picture of this all-male hearing.

“It’s a picture that says a thousand words. And it’s one that most women thought they left behind when pictures only came in black and white.

“But Mr. President, this wasn’t the only story this morning that made women feel like the clock had been turned back on them.

“The other story comes to us from the Republican presidential nomination trail.

“It seems that yesterday, on national television, one of the chief financial backers for Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate surging toward the nomination, suggested that contraception was once as simple as a woman putting Aspirin between her knees.

“It was shocking. It was appalling. It was an insult to women everywhere. 

“In fact, both of these stories are enough to make any woman – regardless of their own politics – very angry.

“They’re enough to make you believe that after years of progress nothing has changed.

“For many women waking up to this news this morning, it may seem like there is a swift and sudden attack on women’s health care.  But I’m here today on the Senate floor to remind many of those women that there is nothing sudden about it.

“There is nothing new about the Republicans’ attacks on our family planning decisions. In fact from the moment they came into power Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women’s health.

“If you don’t believe me, just look at the very first bills they introduced after they arrived.  After campaigning across the country on a platform of jobs and the economy, the first three bills they introduced were each direct attacks on women’s health in America.

“The very first one, H.R. 1, would have totally eliminated Title X funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention.

“And it included an amendment that would have completely defunded Planned Parenthood and cut off support for the millions of women who count on it.

“Another one of their opening round of bills would have permanently codified the Hyde Amendment and the D.C. abortion ban—and the original version of their bill didn’t even include an exception for the health of the mother.

“And finally, they introduced a bill right away that would have rolled back every single one of the gains we made for women in the health care reform bill.

“The Republican bill would have removed the caps on out-of-pocket expenses that protect women from losing their homes or their life savings if they get sick.

“It would have ended the ban on lifetime limits on coverage.

“It would have allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums or even denying women care because of so-called pre-existing conditions—like pregnancy.

“It would have rolled back the guarantee that insurance companies cover contraceptives, which will save the overwhelming majority of women who use them hundreds of dollars a year.

“And Mr. President, in addition to showing their true colors with their very first legislative efforts, Republicans have also shown they’ll go to just about any length to limit access to care.

“Even shutting down the federal government.

“It seems extreme, but that’s exactly what happened last April when Republicans nearly shuttered the federal government over a rider that was yet another attempt to go after Title X and Planned Parenthood.

“I can remember sitting in meetings, after months of negotiations over the budget, astonished that Republicans were willing to throw it all away to go after women’s health.

“As one of the only women in the room that day – I can also remember being personally disgusted that Republicans thought they could get away with making women victims – under the cover of darkness - at the 11th hour.

“But I also remember the resounding no that they heard after they tried that pull that one.

“First from me. Then from many of my colleagues that are joining me today. Then from a loud and overwhelming chorus of women of all political persuasions.“M. President, that chorus of women was heard again just a few weeks ago after yet another attack on women’s health care.

“This time the attack came cloaked in a sham investigation led by some of the same Congressional Republicans who yesterday called that all-male panel together.

“It was investigation that the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer charity cited to cut off funding for life-saving breast cancer screenings for women.

“Now, we all know the outcry that followed that decision.

“I certainly remember standing shoulder to shoulder with not just women – but many men – in my home state in front of a clinic that provided those breast screening referrals and pledging to safeguard against any future attacks in the wake of that decision.

“But Mr. President, I didn’t think that attack would come the very next week.

“But Republicans here still weren’t done– even after the loud rebuke the Komen decision received – they’ve decided to pick on women’s health once again.

“Just last week the junior Senator from Missouri introduced an amendment to a job-creating transportation bill that is as extreme as anything we have seen.

“It’s an amendment that will allow any employer from a barber, to a banker, to a multi-national corporation—to be given an exemption to not cover contraception or any essential preventative benefit for any religious or moral reason.

“It’s an amendment that would give employers an unprecedented license to dictate what women can and can’t have covered.

“It puts employers between women and their health care. It puts politics between women and their health care.  And before the news that women all across the country woke up to this morning, it was just the most recent in a long line of attacks on our reproductive rights.

“Mr. President—contraceptive coverage shouldn’t be a controversial issue, it’s supported by the vast majority of Americans who understand how important it is for women and families.

“But Republicans have made clear from the start that this isn’t about what’s best for women, men, and their family planning decisions. 

“This is about their political calculations.  This is about their constituency.  And it’s about their continued push to do whatever it takes to push their extreme agenda.

“Well, Mr. President, the women of the united states senate, the Democratic women,  are here to say enough.

“We are standing up today and every day to fight for women and their right to make their own basic health care decisions.  Not their employer, not an extreme part of the republican on a panel, but themselves.  And we will continue to do.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.”