(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Tuesday, May 13th, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor to make clear that a politically motivated bill severely restricting women’s access to reproductive care is a non-starter in the Senate. Sen. Murray’s floor speech came in response to Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) attempt to pass an abortion ban that is being championed by right-wing special interest groups as part of their nationwide campaign to restrict women’s health care access. Sen. Murray and other Democrats objected to Senator Graham’s request and took to the Senate floor to remind him these types of extreme attacks on women’s health are going nowhere.
Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech:
“…if it wasn’t clear the last time the senior Senator from South Carolina attempted this, it should be clear now: Senators like me are not going anywhere. Advocates and doctors who treat women every day and know that their health must be protected aren’t going anywhere. Women who continue to believe their health care decisions are theirs alone aren’t going anywhere. The constitution isn’t going anywhere. And therefore this extreme bill isn’t going anywhere.”
“This is a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, and it’s an attack on what is already settled law. Mr. President, I’d like to remind my colleagues that real women’s lives, and the most difficult health care decisions they can ever possibly make, are at stake.”
“I’m here today to provide a simple reality check. We’re not going back. We’re not going back on settled law like Roe v. Wade or the Affordable Care Act. We’re not going to take away a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about her own health care and her own body.”
Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:
“Mr. President, you would think more than ever right now, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would recognize that the American people want us focused squarely on jobs and the economy.
“It’s what every poll says, it’s what the vast majority of our constituents say, and it’s absolutely what is needed at a time when families – especially working women -- continue to struggle to make ends meet.
“But, instead of working with us, across the aisle, to give every American a fair shot, it seems like Republicans are focused on something else entirely….politics.
“Mr. President, today the senior Senator from South Carolina attempted to pass a bill that not only undermines women’s access to their doctors, but restricts their rights to access reproductive health services.
“I’m not sure what our colleagues think has changed since they last introduced this bill in November.
“But just as it was back then, this extreme, unconstitutional abortion ban is an absolute non-starter.
“It’s going nowhere in the Senate and they know it is just a cheap political ploy.
“Mr. President, I’d like to think that over the last 41 years – since the historic decision in Roe v. Wade - we’ve moved on from debating this issue.
“I’d like to think that after four decades many of those who want to make women’s health care decisions for them have come to grips with the fact that Roe v. Wade is settled law.
“After all, many of the signs of progress are all around us:
“This Congress there’s a record 20 women serving in this body.
“In 2012, women’s power and voice at the ballot box was heard loud and clear.
“In fact, when Republican candidates for office thought that rape was a political talking point -- that idea, and their candidacies, were swiftly rejected thanks in large part to the voices of women.
“So sometimes it’s tempting to think that times indeed have changed.
“That maybe, just maybe, politicians have realized that getting between a women and her doctor is not their job. That it’s possible right-wing legislators have a newfound respect for women.
“But Mr. President, the truth is that the drumbeat of politically-driven, extreme, and unconstitutional laws continues to get louder.
“In 2013, our nation saw yet another record-breaking year of state legislatures passing restrictive legislation barring women’s access to abortion services.
“In fact, in the past three years, more of these restrictions have been enacted across the country than in the previous ten years combined.
“And anti-choice lawmakers here in our nation’s capital have filed fifty legislative attacks on reproductive rights in this Congress alone.
“These haven’t just been attacks on a woman’s right to choose, but it’s been an all-out assault on everything from shaming pregnant women, to drafting politically-driven legislation intended to create geographical roadblocks for low-income and racial minorities wishing to access safe reproductive services.
“Not surprisingly, these states that have enacted some of the most extreme and archaic restrictions are also the same states that fail to achieve even mediocre standards when it comes to critical issues like education and the economy.
“But despite these shortcomings, some members of this body refuse to work with us to address these critical issues and instead want to distract the American public with these purely political bills until the small pocket of their extreme audience is satisfied.
“Mr. President, in fact, according to the Senator from South Carolina – debating a woman’s access to her own doctor is a ‘debate worthy of a great democracy.’
“The fact is, Mr. President—it’s a debate we’ve already had.
“This is a direct attack on Roe v. Wade.
“And it’s an attack on what is already settled law.
“Mr. President, I’d like to remind my colleagues that real women’s lives, and the most difficult health care decisions they can ever possibly make, are at stake.
“Just consider the story Judy Nicastro, from my home state of Washington, shared so bravely in the New York Times.
“I’ve told this story before—but it bears repeating.
“In an op-ed she wrote just days after the House passed a bill that was virtually identical to this one – Judy talked about being faced with every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare.
“In describing the news that one of the twins that she was carrying was facing a condition where only one lung chamber had formed - and that it was only 20 percent complete - Judy captured the anguish countless other women in similar positions have faced.
‘My world stopped’ – she wrote.
‘I loved being pregnant with twins and trying to figure out which one was where in my uterus. Sometimes it felt like a party in there, with eight limbs moving. The thought of losing one child was unbearable.
“She went on to say – ‘The M.R.I., at Seattle Children’s Hospital, confirmed our fears: the organs were pushed up into our boy’s chest and not developing properly. We were in the 22nd week.’
“Mr. President, under this bill the decision Judy ultimately made through painful conversations with her family and consultation with her doctors would be illegal.
“The decision to make sure as she put it, ‘our son was not born only to suffer’ would be taken from her and given to politicians.
“Mr. President, I’m here today to provide a simple reality check.
“We’re not going back.
“We’re not going back on settled law like Roe v. Wade or the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re not going to take away a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about her own health care and her own body.
“And just like the many attempts before this bill, there are those out there who would like the American public to believe all these efforts are anything BUT an attack on women’s health care.
“To them, it’s a debate about ‘freedom,’ except of course the freedom for women to access care.
“It’s no different than when we are told attacks on abortion rights aren’t an infringement on a women’s right to choose – they’re about religion or state’s rights.
“Or when we’re told restricting emergency contraception isn’t about limiting women’s ability to make our own family planning decisions – it’s about protecting pharmacists.
“Or like last month when a Republican state lawmaker in Missouri introduced legislation to triple the state’s mandatory waiting period for abortion services, claiming it would give women more time to do their ‘research.’
“And – not that we should be surprised – he went on to compare this deeply personal choice to that of purchasing an automobile, saying ‘In making a decision to buy a car, I put research in there to find out what to do.’
“Mr. President, the truth is this is an attempt to limit a women’s ability to access care.
“This is about women.
“Instead of playing a game of political football with women and their health, Republicans should consider joining with us in working toward what women truly want.
“Women want to have a fair shot at success.
“First and foremost, that means not rolling back the clock or eroding the gains we’ve already made.
“We took a good step forward with the Affordable Care Act, which prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men for coverage ensures preventive services like mammograms and contraception coverage are covered, and increases access to comprehensive health care coverage, thanks to the Medicaid expansion and the Exchanges.
“But we need to do more to make sure women are getting equal pay for equal work.
“Giving the millions of women earning the minimum wage a raise would also go a long way towards that effort.
“We also need to update our tax code so that mothers returning to the workforce don’t face a marriage penalty.
“And so much more.
“These are the issues we should be focused on.
“How to move our country forward—not backward.
“So, Mr. President – if it wasn’t clear the last time the senior Senator from South Carolina attempted this, it should be clear now:
“Senators like me are not going anywhere.”
“Advocates and doctors who treat women every day and know that their health must be protected aren’t going anywhere.”
“Women who continue to believe their health care decisions are theirs alone aren’t going anywhere. “
“The constitution isn’t going anywhere.”
“And therefore this extreme bill isn’t going anywhere.”
“Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.”