(Senate - January 21, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 12 (Thursday, January 21, 2016)]
[Pages S147-S149]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, thank you to my colleagues who are 
joining me here today and so many other efforts to stand up for women. 
The 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic ruling in Roe v. 
Wade is tomorrow. This is an important time to remember how much this 
decision has meant for women's equality, opportunity, and health, why 
it is so important we continue defending the hard-won gains that women 
have made, and why we need to keep pushing for continued progress.
  For anyone who supports a woman's constitutionally protected right to 
make her own health care choices, this has been a tough and trying 
Congress. To be honest, at the beginning of 2015, I gave my Republican 
colleagues the benefit of the doubt. I hoped that in the majority, they 
might focus more on governing and less on trying to get in between a 
woman and her rights. Unfortunately, that didn't last long.
  Since this Congress began, more than 80 bills have been introduced in 
Congress that would undermine a woman's constitutionally protected 
right to make her own choices about her own body. The House and Senate 
have voted a total of 20 times on legislation to roll back women's 
health and rights.
  That is not all. Republicans have pushed budget proposals that would 
dismantle the Affordable Care Act. After a summer of using deceptive, 
highly edited videos to discredit Planned Parenthood and try to take 
away health care services that one in five women rely on over their 
lifetimes, the House has doubled down by launching a special 
investigative committee to keep up the political attacks. Of course 
similar efforts to undermine women's constitutionally protected health 
care rights are underway across the country.
  Nowhere is that clearer than in Texas, where an extreme anti-abortion 
law could force 75 percent of the clinics statewide to close. If that 
law stands, 900,000 women of child-bearing age will have to drive as 
far as 300 miles round trip to get the health care they need.
  To be clear, a right means nothing without the ability to exercise 
that right. Laws like HB2 in Texas and many others like it across the 
country, driven by extreme conservative efforts to undermine women's 
access to care, are without question getting in between women and their 
rights, especially the rights of women who can't afford to take off 
work and drive hundreds of miles just to get health care.
  Later this year, the Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold 
Texas's extreme anti-abortion law. In doing so, they will decide 
whether women can act on the rights they are afforded in the 
Constitution. This law puts women's lives at risk. It is the biggest 
threat to women's constitutional rights in over a decade. That is why I 
am working with many of my Democratic colleagues to call on the Supreme 
Court to uphold Roe v. Wade and protect a woman's right to make her own 
health care decisions.
  Today, as we head into a year that is absolutely critical for women, 
I have a message for those who want to turn back the clock. Those 
efforts to undermine women's health care are nothing new. Women have 
been fighting them for generations, and we are going to keep fighting 
back today. We are not going to go back to the days when because women 
had less control over their own bodies, they had less equality and less 
  As we defend the progress we have made, we will keep pushing for 
more, from continuing to expand access so that where a woman lives 
doesn't determine what health care she can get to expanding access to 
affordable birth control and family planning, to fighting back against 
domestic violence and sexual assault, which disproportionately impacts 
  We are going to keep pushing for progress because we believe strongly 
that the next generation of women--our daughters and our 
granddaughters--should have stronger rights and more opportunity, not 
  My colleagues and I in the Senate are going to keep working hard 
every day to bring women's voices to the Senate floor and show that 
when women are stronger, our country is stronger. Let's keep up the 
 Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, Roe v. Wade became law of the land 
43 years ago, taking women out of the back alleys and promising them 
the fundamental right to make their own choices about their health care 
and their futures.
  As we mark this milestone, the GOP and their extreme allies are doing 
everything in their power to take away that promise. Since 2010, States 
have passed 288 new laws that are designed to place barrier upon 
barrier between women and their critical health care. These laws have 
piled on outrageous requirements for clinics, providers and the women 
they serve--making it harder for women to get the care they need.
  Texas's extreme law, HB2, is no different. The Supreme Court recently 
agreed to hear Whole Women's Health v. Cole, a case challenging HB2, 
which is designed to close health clinics that provide safe, legal 
abortions. Its proponents claim to be protecting women. In what 
universe is it ``protecting'' women by making it harder for them to 
access critical health care?
  The answer, of course, is it's not.
  This law targets women's health care providers with intentionally 
burdensome requirements such as mandating that physicians gain 
admitting privileges at hospitals within a 30-mile radius of where they 
practice--a provision that has already forced more than half the 
clinics in Texas to close.
  And let's be clear: that is their goal--to shut down clinics and deny 
rights. If HB2 is upheld, it would reduce the number of providers from 
40 to 10. Ten clinics for the second largest State in the country. This 
would force women to travel for hours or even to another State for 
  That is exactly what happened to Austin resident Marni, who was 
forced to fly to Seattle when her procedure was cancelled the night 
before it was scheduled because the clinic was forced to immediately 
discontinue providing these services after HB2 took effect. Muni said 
her first reaction was ``to feel like my rights were being taken away 
from me, to feel very disappointed that elected officials had the 
ability to make decisions about my and my fiance's life.''
  In some cases, forcing women to delay or cancel procedures could 
endanger their health and lives.
  Vikki is a diabetic who discovered months into her pregnancy that the 
fetus she was carrying suffered from several major anomalies and had no 
chance of survival. Because of Vikki's diabetes, her doctor determined 
that induced labor and Caesarian section were both riskier procedures 
for Vikki than an abortion. Fortunately, Vikki lived in a State where 
she was able to have the procedure she needed to protect her life and 
ensure she could have children in the future.
  But GOP-led state legislatures are doing everything they can to pass 
laws designed to deny care to women like Vikki. There are currently 
laws across the country to: Ban abortions; Restrict the use of the 
abortion pill; Ban the use of telemedicine--which allows doctors to 
treat patients who live far away or in rural areas and prescribe 
abortion medication; Require women to wait a certain time between their 
first doctor's visit and their procedure; and Require women go through 
mandatory counseling and even require an ultrasound in which medical 
personnel describe the image of the fetus to the patient.
  This crusade is also about denying access to family planning. Yes, in 

[[Page S148]]

year 2016, Republicans and their extreme allies are still on a crusade 
against contraception, which the Supreme Court deemed legal 50 years 
  This is despite the fact that we know contraceptives are the best way 
to decrease unintended pregnancies and abortions.
  This is despite the fact that 99 percent of American women who have 
ever been sexually active have used at least one contraceptive method--
and not just to plan their families. Fifty-eight percent of women who 
take birth control do so at least in part to treat painful and 
difficult medical conditions. Of those, 1.5 million women take it 
solely as a medication to treat those conditions.
  They are women like Sandra from Los Angeles, who suffers from 
polycystic ovary syndrome and has used birth control since the age of 
18 to treat her condition, which could otherwise render her infertile 
and put her at higher risk for complications like heart disease, 
diabetes, and cancer. For women like Sandra, access to birth control is 
  In fact, contraception has had such a dramatic impact on women and 
families in this country that the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention declared it one of the greatest public health achievements 
of the 20th century. A 2012 study also found that access to affordable 
birth control led to a decline in teen births and reduced the rate of 
abortions by one-half, which is a goal we all should share.
  So while many of us fight to expand access to affordable birth 
control, the GOP is trying to make contraception more expensive and 
harder to get.
  Ironically, so many of those who want to overturn Roe and deny access 
to contraceptives are the same people who say they want limited 
government. There is nothing limited about inserting the government 
between a woman, her family and their most personal health care 
  This is the opposite of limited government--and it is wrong and 
dangerous. Leaving women with no other option for health care may force 
them to take matters into their own hands--and in Texas, it is already 
happening. A recent study by the University of Texas found that as many 
as 210,000 women tried to end their own pregnancies since HB2 took 
effect in 2013.
  We cannot go back to the days of back alley abortions.
  We cannot undermine the promise Roe made to women 43 years ago.
  In the 21st century, we cannot deny women access to family planning 
and other reproductive care.
  But that is exactly what the GOP and their right-wing allies are 
trying to do.
  These shameful attacks are trying to take away the real, legal health 
care that millions of women depend on. This is a fight that has been 
picked before. We have won it before, and we will win it again.
  We will fight this assault on women's health.
  We will fight to make sure that women across America can continue to 
get the services they need--and deserve.
  And, we will make sure the promise of Roe v. Wade is protected for 
the next generation of women.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Hawaii.
  Ms. HIRONO. Madam President, I rise to mark the anniversary of Roe v. 
Wade. Forty-three years ago, within the lifetime of most of us here, 
the Supreme Court's decision effectively reversed draconian State laws 
prohibiting abortion and gave women power over their own health care 
  Before Roe v. Wade, nearly 5,000 American women died every year 
seeking abortion care that was legally not available to them. That 
number dramatically dropped after the decision because women were able 
to get abortion care from trained medical professionals legally, out in 
the open. The Court found that a woman's right to access abortion care 
is a fundamental constitutional right. While as with many 
constitutional rights, not totally unfettered, this decision enabled 
women to gain control over their own bodies and in turn their futures.
  If the government interfered in other patient-doctor decisions the 
way that State and local governments have interfered with women's 
reproductive rights, there would be a national uproar. Why is it 
different when we talk about a woman's body as opposed to a man's? Can 
you imagine if States passed laws restricting fundamental decisions 
about a man's medical care? Why is it that women have to defend deeply 
personal decisions over our own bodies in court and in legislatures?
  I recognize that there are deeply held beliefs by good people on both 
sides of this issue, which is why the right to choose should be left to 
the individual woman and her doctor. Yet ever since the Roe v. Wade 
decision, State and Federal lawmakers have attempted to chip away at a 
woman's right to make her own health care decisions.
  Hundreds of laws have been passed by States to place limitations and 
roadblocks to a woman's right to choose. Restrictions such as mandatory 
delays, unduly burdensome regulations, and unscientific 20-week bans 
are all attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade.
  In Congress we continue to see unprecedented attacks on women's 
reproductive health--destructive policy riders in spending bills, 
attacks on providers, and efforts to reduce women's access to health 
care services--all in the name of prohibiting abortions.
  These attempts are not based on facts or science. They do not advance 
any public policy goals in the interest of women, which is why many of 
us characterize these efforts as part of a deeply anti-women agenda. 
Moreover, these restrictions disproportionately impact women of color 
and low-income women. Apparently, it is not enough to remove funding 
from reproductive services. The anti-women agenda includes reducing 
funding from maternal health programs and services for infants and 
  The lawmakers writing these restrictions are not the ones who will 
have to live with their negative consequences. It is the women across 
the country who will have to live with these consequences.
  Of course, the legal battles continue. For example, the U.S. Supreme 
Court will be hearing arguments later this year on a Texas law that 
severely restricts the ability of a woman to access safe reproductive 
health care. My colleague from Washington touched on the problems and 
challenges that this Texas law imposes. This law, which 
disproportionately impacts low-income women, has already severely 
affected the ability of women in Texas to get the reproductive care 
they need. The rhetoric around this case, as well as the rhetoric 
employed by abortion foes, has become increasingly dangerous, leading 
to attacks on providers, clinics, and women seeking care.
  I hope we can all agree to not return to the pre-Roe v. Wade 
landscape, where women endangered their lives seeking reproductive care 
and thousands died doing so. I urge my colleagues to join me in 
ensuring that women can continue to control their own destinies for the 
next 43 years and beyond.
  I yield the floor.
  Mrs. MURRAY. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, tomorrow marks the 43rd anniversary of 
the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade recognizing a woman's 
constitutional right to liberty and personal autonomy in her decision 
of whether to have an abortion or not. This landmark case not only 
recognizes those rights, but it is also responsible for saving 
countless women across the country from the devastating and deadly 
outcomes of back-alley abortions. I want to speak to that because I 
have some personal knowledge here.
  I was a young State's attorney in Vermont before Roe v. Wade, and I 
will never forget getting a call in the middle of the night from the 
police and going with them to the emergency room of the local hospital. 
The young woman who was there had nearly died from an unsafe, illegal 
abortion because she could not legally receive that care from a doctor. 
I want to speak of that tragic history today because I feel the current 
effort in many States to roll back Roe v. Wade by denying women access 
to doctors could drag women back to those dark and dangerous times.

[[Page S149]]

  In the years leading up to the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, 
I was the State's attorney in Chittenden County, VT. Abortion was 
illegal in my State of Vermont. Despite the State ban, many women 
desperately needed and sought this medical care, and some doctors 
risked their freedom and livelihood by providing women with abortions 
at local hospitals. These were safe abortions in medical facilities 
that saved women's lives and protected their health. Knowing this, I 
made it clear to the doctors in my county that I would not prosecute 
any of them for providing this medical attention to women in a medical 
facility. I did, however, prosecute to the full extent of the law 
others who preyed upon women's fear and desperation by extorting them 
for unsafe, back-alley abortions.
  There are 100 Senators in this body. I am the only U.S. Senator who 
has ever prosecuted somebody in an abortion case. I vividly remember 
that horrific case. It was the spring of 1968, and I was called to the 
hospital to see this young woman, as I mentioned. She had nearly died 
from hemorrhaging caused by the botched abortion. I prosecuted the man 
who had arranged for the unsafe and illegal abortion that nearly killed 
  After that case and after witnessing firsthand the tragic impact that 
the lack of safe and legal abortion care had on women and families in 
my State, I talked to the local doctors about challenging Vermont's 
abortion law. A year later, a group of women and doctors brought a 
class action case to overturn the law. The case was styled as a suit 
against me as a State prosecutor, but this was a test case against the 
law, and I publicly welcomed the case. Even when the office of the 
State attorney general told me that it lacked resources to devote to 
any defense in this case, I decided to file briefs of my own, but the 
case was unable to proceed because none of the plaintiffs were seeking 
abortions at the time. The particular nature of the constitutional 
claim to abortion, which by its nature is a time-limited claim, made it 
extremely difficult to bring actionable cases before the courts. But 
later that same year, we got another chance.
  The case in which I represented the State and did the briefs was 
Beecham v. Leahy, and it quickly made its way to the Vermont supreme 
court. At that time, our State's high court was composed entirely of 
Republicans, but these conservative justices understood what we had 
been arguing all along--that a statute whose stated purpose was to 
protect women's health, yet denied women access to doctors for their 
medical care, was sheer and dangerous hypocrisy. The court's opinion 
rightly questioned: Where is that concern for the health of a pregnant 
woman when she is denied the advice and assistance of her doctors? The 
court's ruling in Beecham v. Leahy, that protecting women's health for 
required access to safe and legal abortions, ensured that the women of 
Vermont would no longer be subjected to the horrors of back-alley 
abortions. It was a victory for women's health in Vermont. Even though 
the attorney general moved for reargument, I told the court as the 
State's attorney that I had no objection to the ruling and concurred 
with it.
  A year later the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade held what is now 
the law of the land. Women have a constitutional right to their 
autonomy and bodily integrity that protects their decision to have an 
abortion and to make that decision with their doctors.
  I recount this history not just to mark another year of women's 
rights and safety under both Roe v. Wade and Beecham v. Leahy, but also 
to connect the history to the attack today on women's access to safe 
and legal abortions that are threatening to take us back to those 
times. States looking to roll back women's rights have returned to 
penalizing doctors to deter them from providing women with safe health 
care. What I find most appalling is that States that are passing these 
laws claiming they somehow protect women's health. Yet these laws have 
nothing to do with women's health, and they have everything to do with 
shutting down women's access to safe and legal abortion. When you deny 
women access to doctors for medical services, you deny them their 
constitutional rights. You also deny them their safety and, in some 
cases, their lives. This is a fact that legislators passing these laws 
either callously ignore or willfully choose not to hear.

  I still remember that case as though it was yesterday. I still 
remember that young woman, and I still remember the history of the 
person who was performing those illegal abortions. That is why I joined 
an amicus brief with 37 other Senators and 124 Members of the House in 
the Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt case currently before the 
Supreme Court. Our brief urges the Court to overturn a State law that 
requires doctors who provide abortions to meet onerous restrictions 
that apply to no other medical procedures and are completely unrelated 
to protecting women's health.
  The Texas law at issue would have the effect of shuttering 75 percent 
of all women's health clinics that provide abortion services in the 
State if the full law were implemented, as well as possibly shuttering 
all the other services they provide. Already, parts of the law in 
effect have had a devastating impact on women's health. As a University 
of Texas study of women showed, after the law went into effect, an 
estimated 100,000 to 240,000 women have tried to end their pregnancies 
on their own without seeking medical attention. The study found that 
women, with nowhere to turn, resorted to herbs, illicit drugs, and even 
  That this law was passed under the pretense of women's health is a 
travesty, and it should be struck down. The Supreme Court Justices 
cannot ignore the impact upholding this State law will have on hundreds 
of thousands of women in Texas and across the Nation.
  When I see these efforts to prevent women's access to safe and legal 
medical services, I think about all the young women in Vermont who have 
grown up knowing only that the U.S. Constitution and the Vermont 
Constitution protects their liberty and also recognizes that they are 
capable of deciding for themselves matters that control their lives and 
their destiny. I hope they and the generations after them never 
experience otherwise from the Supreme Court.
  I will speak further on this subject another time, but when I think 
about what that young woman in Vermont turned to, I am glad our case to 
uphold our Constitution's right to privacy, Beecham v. Leahy, is on the 
books. I applaud the very conservative, very Republican Supreme Court 
Justices who wrote it in a nearly unanimous opinion.
  Madam President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. PERDUE. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.