(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) delivered a floor speech on an anti-abortion bill passed yesterday by the House of Representatives. The bill – H.R. 1797 – would prohibit all abortions beyond 20 weeks with very limited exceptions. Video of Blumenthal’s floor speech is here. Text to follow:
I come to the floor today to discuss H.R. 1797. A number of my colleagues, Senators Murray and Boxer, have been here this morning to talk about the bill passed yesterday in the House of Representatives that would prohibit all abortions beyond 20 weeks with very, very limited exceptions. This topic is critically important to the women of Connecticut and our country, and the bill is yet another example, lamentably and regrettably, another example of legislation that feigns concern for women's health when actually it would endanger the lives and well-being of women across this great country.
The bill would take decisions regarding health care away from women and their doctors and would force the doctors to decide between incurring criminal penalties and helping their patients. That choice is unacceptable –professionally and morally. The decision to have an abortion is a serious decision that a woman should make in consultation with her doctor. When those decisions are made later in a pregnancy, they are most often the result of serious health risks to the mother or the discovery that the fetus is not viable.
Political interference is abhorrent and unacceptable in these personal and private decisions, and it violates the constitutional right of privacy. The other scenario in which a woman may seek an abortion later in a pregnancy is due to an inability to access such services earlier – whether due to financial restrictions or lack of access to health care or other extenuating circumstances. In fact, 58 percent of abortion patients say they would have preferred to have an abortion earlier. Low-income women were more than twice as likely than their wealthier counterparts to be delayed because of financial limitation and difficulty in making arrangements. As politicians, we should not be placing additional restrictions on women in these circumstances.
The House bill blatantly ignores constitutional protections that are vitally necessary to protect the health of women as decided in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey because these kinds of restrictions place limitations that interfere with constitutional rights and have no place in these personal and very private decisions. The limited exceptions in this bill would require a woman to report a rape or incest to law enforcement or a specific government agency when she is seeking much-needed health care services. Those restrictions affect women when they have been the victims of a crime or face serious health risks and will have no effect on reducing abortions.
That's their purported purpose, to reduce abortions, but that purpose will be in no way served by these restrictions. Victims of incest or rape may be too young or too fearful of retaliation to report to a law enforcement agency. Why create a needless, lawless obstacle to vital health care? We should be working to ensure that women have the ability to access safe and affordable contraception so there are fewer unintended pregnancies in this country. And yet supporters of this bill would also restrict access to contraception and they're the ones who have tried to make it more difficult to get access to the information and services necessary to prevent unintended pregnancies.
We need to do more. Our nation needs to do better to ensure that women have access to preventive and maternal health care so they can be prepared to face the responsibility of pregnancy and parenthood. This bill would do very little, if anything, to actually help women to protect their health care and the health care of their families and so I urge my colleagues to reject any consideration of this ill-intended, and I hope also ill-fated, measure that endangers women's health across the country. I urge my colleagues to focus on the real priorities that face this Congress – job creation and economic recovery, for example – and stop this attack on women's health.