January 30, 2018

Senator Warren Delivers Floor Speech Opposing Proposed 20-Week Abortion Ban

Warren: "Whatever you believe about abortion generally, this legislation is dangerous and cruel."

Video available here (YouTube)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor in opposition to Republican legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In her remarks, Senator Warren criticized Republicans for using this bill to score political points at the expense of women and their families. Emphasizing that reproductive rights are about health and safety, Senator Warren condemned the legislation as dangerous, cruel, and part of a broader assault by Republicans on women's health, safety, and economic independence.

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
January 29, 2018

Mr. President:

I want to thank the Senior Senator from Washington for her leadership on this important issue and for gathering women to come to the floor today to talk about the Republican bill that's been proposed and that we'll be voting on soon.

When I was a girl growing up in Oklahoma, women got abortions. Make no mistake-abortions were illegal back then, but women got them.  Desperate women turned to back alley butchers and some even tried the procedure on their own, using coat hangers or drinking turpentine. Some were lucky, but others weren't. Some women bled to death.  Some died of infections.  Some were poisoned. They all went through hell.

In 1973, the Supreme Court stepped in. Forty-five years after Roe v. Wade, abortions are safer than getting your tonsils out. A lot of women are alive today because of Roe.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans agree: Roe v. Wade is worth supporting. And I wish I were here today to acknowledge the impact of Roe. Instead, I'm here to defend it from attack.

Last week, President Trump marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade by calling for a ban on a rare category of abortions - ones that take place after 20 weeks of pregnancy. So today, the Senate is voting on a bill to do exactly that.  

Let's be honest about why this vote is happening now. Today's vote is happening because politicians who have never been pregnant, who have never had an abortion, who have never had to make a wrenching decision after learning that the child they're carrying won't survive childbirth-those politicians want to score political points at the expense of women and their families. We are having this vote today because President Trump asked for it. If it passes, this unconstitutional bill would put women's lives and women's health at risk.

Government officials who seek to insert themselves between women and their doctors ought to listen to the women whose lives are on the line and the doctors who care for them. If they were listening right now, we wouldn't be holding this vote.

Only one percent of abortions take place at 21 weeks or later. One percent, and the reasons are heartbreaking.  I've heard from people across Massachusetts, who've shared their devastating stories. The Senate should hear these stories.

One woman who wrote to me explained that she was ecstatic to have a second child-but learned late in her pregnancy that her daughter's brain was severely malformed. "Being a grown woman with a husband and daughter," she said, "I never imagined that I would need to get an abortion. But when I learned that the baby I was carrying suffered from a set of severe brain malformations, I faced a binary choice for her: peace or life...I am deeply grateful that I was able to give her the gift of peace." She and her husband did what they thought was best for their baby girl. They got an abortion in the third trimester.

Another couple chose to get an abortion at 22 weeks, after learning that their son's heart would never fully develop. The husband wrote me, "His pulmonary veins did not connect to his heart in the right place. He had a ventricular septal defect, an atrial septal defect...and the left side of his heart was smaller than his right...we hoped to be eligible for in-utero heart surgery, but our fetal cardiologists told us that our son's heart could not be fixed. Our little boy-our miracle-wasn't going to make it." He described their choice as an act of mercy. "My wife and I are both pro-life," he said, "and we would never encourage abortion." But "there isn't a day that I regret what we did because we both believe our child is watching over us from a safer place. There also isn't a day that I wonder who else can possibly understand what we went through. No law can save my child from his complex congenital heart disease, or save my wife from her suffering."

But the bill we are voting on today says that the government should have been part of that decision.  No, not just part of that decision. It would have allowed the government to make that decision, instead of leaving the choice to brokenhearted parents.

The bill we are considering today would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, with only limited exceptions. It would force women to carry an unviable fetus to term. It would force women with severe health complications to stay pregnant until their lives were on the line. Whatever you believe about abortion generally, this legislation is dangerous and cruel.    

Devastating fetal abnormalities aren't the only reason women get abortions after 20 weeks. Some women face so many delays when seeking abortions, delays like finding a provider, raising money for the procedure, and paying for travel costs. So many delays that a procedure they wanted earlier in pregnancy gets pushed later and later. These logistical hurdles fall hardest on young people, on women of color, and on low-income communities. And what is behind some of these delays? State-level abortion restrictions, pushed through by Republican legislatures, that close down clinics and make it harder for women get access to the care they need.

You heard that right: Republican-sponsored abortion restrictions push women to have abortions later and later--the same types of abortions the Senate is voting to ban today.

Ultimately, this bill is only one part of a broad and sustained assault by Republican politicians on women's rights to make decisions about their own bodies. Through repeated efforts to limit birth control access, to defund Planned Parenthood, and to restrict abortions, Republicans are chipping away at women's health, women's safety, and women's economic independence.

If Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or Donald Trump actually wanted to reduce abortions, they could embrace policies that would lessen the economic pressures of pregnancy and motherhood. They could act to help pregnant women and their babies access healthcare early and often. They could help young women avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

But instead, they have spent the last year doing exactly the opposite. They have held vote after vote to try and gut the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, when we should be expanding those programs. Affordable health care, accessible contraceptives, and other programs that support working women and families are all under attack. And today, Republican politicians want to distract from their hypocrisy with an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban - one that will not pass, that ignores the actual experiences of women, and that would cause harm if it were signed into law.

Today's vote, which we all know will fail, isn't about policy - it is about political theater. But women don't get abortions to prove a political point. Reproductive rights are about health. They are about safety. And this particular vote about banning abortions at 20 weeks is about a bunch of politicians intruding on one of the most wrenching decisions that a woman will ever make.

It's been forty-five years since Roe v. Wade. Forty-five years since women gained the constitutional right to a safe, legal abortion. Forty-five years since the days of illegal abortions. I've lived in that America. I've lived in the world of back alley butchers and wrecked lives. And we are not going back-not now, not ever.