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On International Women's Day, Murray Urges Continued Vigilance Against Attacks on Women's Health

Mar 08 2012

Murray: We cannot celebrate the progress we have made without also acknowledging the unsettling truth that that progress is under threat



(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor honoring International Women’s Day. In light of the recent battle over access to contraception, the Senator reminded women and men that the battle over women’s health and family planning decisions is ongoing, and that we must remain vigilant against these attacks.  The Senator called on all to celebrate gains women have made on this important day,  but to keep in mind that these gains must continue to be defended.  The Senator urged her colleagues to continue to stand up for women everywhere to ensure that progress is not reversed.  

Key excerpts from speech:

“This day – which across the globe is celebrated in different ways – is at its core a day to reflect on the achievements of women: achievements in politics, in business, and in society.  It is a day to reflect on what women’s role was in the not-so-distant past and to celebrate how far we have come. But unfortunately, Mr. President, on this International Women’s Day – in the year two thousand and twelve - we cannot celebrate the progress we have made without also acknowledging the unsettling truth that that progress is under threat.”

“Last week, one woman brave enough to come forward and give voice to the importance of birth control was targeted.  First, her story of a friend’s battle with ovarian cancer was purposefully left out of a House hearing on the matter and then, as we have all heard, she was scorned and ridiculed by a right wing pundit.  It was a galvanizing and eye-opening moment for millions of women across the country. It was a reminder that there are some who still see women as easy targets.”

“The attacks on women’s rights are not just taking place here in Washington D.C. In every state across the country, legislatures bent on putting politics between women and their care are undoing years of work.”

“Now, you would think that after two years spent railing against any government involvement in health care, Republicans wouldn’t want the state to dictate procedures that a doctor must perform on a woman – whether she wants them or not.  But then you would be confused.  Because clearly when it comes to women and their health care choices, these Republicans are willing to do whatever it takes to call the shots.”

“The threats to women’s health care are very real, and they are only growing.  We saw it on a panel on birth control in the House – that didn’t include any woman.  We saw it in a young woman being called horrible names for telling the story of a friend in need. We see it in Republican efforts to allow a woman’s employer to dictate her access to birth control, and we are seeing it in state laws all across the country aimed at stripping women of their rights and so much more.”

“On this International Women’s Day we celebrate our gains with the clear understating that they must always be defended. We join with women everywhere to ensure that progress is not reversed.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, I’m so glad to join with my colleagues to mark International Women’s Day here on the Senate floor.

“This day – which across the globe is celebrated in different ways – is at its core a day to reflect on the achievements of women: achievements in politics, in business, and in society.

“It is a day to reflect on what women’s role was in the not-so-distant past. 

“And to celebrate how far we have come.

“But unfortunately, Mr. President, on this International Women’s Day – in the year two thousand and twelve - we cannot celebrate the progress we have made without also acknowledging the unsettling truth that that progress is under threat.

“Today a shadow has been cast over this day of celebration by efforts to turn back the clock here in Washington D.C. and all across the country.

“Efforts that we all must fight back against.

“Mr. President, here in the Senate, we are only one week removed from a debate on the ability for women across this country to access contraceptives.

“It’s a debate that most women believed was settled half-a-century ago.

“And one we all hoped that we were past. 

“However, in a scene that was eerily reminiscent of a half-a-century ago, last week, one woman brave enough to come forward and give voice to the importance of birth control was targeted.

“First, her story of a friend’s battle with ovarian cancer was purposefully left out of a House hearing on the matter.

“And then, as we have all heard, she was scorned and ridiculed by a right wing pundit.

“It was a galvanizing and eye-opening moment for millions of women across the country.

“It was a reminder that there are some who still see women as easy targets.

“And it awakened many women to the fact that the gains that we are meant to celebrate on a day like today - could easily be lost to a political strategy that preys on women.

“Now Mr. President, for many of those who watched the last few weeks play out, it may seem like an isolated incident.

“It could appear to some a sudden and swift effort by Republicans that has thankfully been blocked for the time being.

“But unfortunately that’s not the case.

“The truth is that women’s access to care has rarely been at greater risk.

“M. President, 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 first bills would have permanently codified the Hyde Amendment and the D.C. abortion ban—

“And finally, they introduced a bill 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.

“And it would have rolled back the guarantee that insurance companies cover contraceptives.

“Mr. President, Republicans have 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 just to go after women’s health.

“And Mr. President, the attacks on women’s rights are not just taking place here in Washington D.C.

“In every state across the country, legislatures bent on putting politics between women and their care are undoing years of work.

“Today, I want to highlight just one of those state efforts – a recently enacted law in Texas that not only strips women of their rights, but also of their dignity.

“It’s a law that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recently wrote about in a column - that I’d like to submit for the record.

“And it’s a law that women all across this country should be insulted and outraged by.

“Mr. President, today – nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade – when a woman in Texas seeks out an abortion – one of the most difficult health care choices she could ever be faced with – she’s met not with compassion and care - but with humiliation.

“And that’s because thanks to a law passed by Republicans there she is now subjected – against her will – to a vaginal ultrasound.

“She is then instructed to listen to a fetal heartbeat and to watch the ultrasound.

“And then, after numerous other state-mandated hurdles,

“She must go home and wait for 24 hours before she can access a health care procedure that was made a right for American women four decades ago.

“Now, you would think that after two years spent railing against any government involvement in health care, Republicans wouldn’t want to the state to dictate procedures that a doctor must perform on a woman – whether she wants them or not.

“But then you would be confused.

“Because clearly when it comes to women and their health care choices, these Republicans are willing to do whatever it takes to call the shots.

“And the sad part is…..other states across the country are now contemplating similar laws. 

“So Mr. President, the threats to women’s health care are very real, and they are only growing.

“We saw it on a panel on birth control in the House – that didn’t include any woman.

“We saw it in a young woman being called horrible names for telling the story of a friend in need.

“We see it in Republican efforts to allow a woman’s employer to dictate her access to birth control.

“And we are seeing it in state laws all across the country aimed at stripping women of their rights and so much more. 

“So on this International Women’s Day we celebrate our gains with the clear understating that they must always be defended.

“We join with women everywhere to ensure that progress is not reversed.

“Thank you…I yield the floor.”