WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Tuesday called to end the filibuster to protect the constitutional right to have an abortion during remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Sanders’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
M. President: The recently leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization signals what many of us have feared would happen: At least 5 right-wing Supreme Court justices seem poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and abolish the constitutional right of women to have an abortion. In my view, the United States Senate cannot and it must not allow that to happen.
We cannot go back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. We cannot go back to the days of back alley abortions.
We cannot go back to the days of forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy or go through a childbirth that could cause her illness, injury, or death.
In America today, it is estimated that one out of every 4 women will choose to have an abortion by the time they turn 45. In 2019, over 625,000 women in America chose to have an abortion.
While no one can say with any degree of certainty how many deaths there will be if abortion is made illegal and women are forced to carry unsafe pregnancies to term, there is no doubt that many thousands of them will die.
I get very tired of hearing the hypocrisy from the extreme right wing who say: “get the government off our backs, we want small government.” Well, if you want to get the government off of the backs of the American people, then understand that it is women who control their own bodies, not politicians.
During the COVID crisis, how many times have we heard the extreme right wing say: “The government must not force me to wear a mask. The government must not force me to get the vaccine. We need to eliminate all of those oppressive government mandates that are taking away my rights and freedom!”
And yet these same right-wing politicians want the federal government, the state government and their own local government to mandate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. What hypocrisy!
The decision about an abortion must be a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.
That is why I rise this evening in strong support of the Women’s Health Protection Act.
This legislation would make Roe v. Wade the law of the land.
This legislation would begin to put an end to the relentless assault on the reproductive rights of women that is taking place all over this country.
But let me be as clear as I can be, M. President. It is not good enough to just talk about passing this bill.
If there are not 60 votes in the Senate to pass this legislation, and there are not, we must end the filibuster and pass it with 50 votes.
You know, I hear a lot of talk from my Democratic colleagues about the need for unity. Well, if there was ever a time for unity, now is that time.
According to poll after poll, year after year, 60 percent of the American people believe that Roe v. Wade should be upheld. Moreover, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 75% of Americans say decisions on abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor, including 95% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans.
In other words, if the United States Senate was truly a representative body of the American people, which for a variety of reasons clearly it is not, we would easily have 60 votes to pass this bill and women would be protected.
M. President: Let us not forget how we got to where we are today.
Five years ago, Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to do what they could not do legislatively: Make abortion illegal. They ended the filibuster.
Candidate Donald Trump promised that he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who supported overturning Roe v. Wade. And, unfortunately, out of the many lies Trump made during his campaign and presidency, this seems to be the one promise he kept.
Further, while it looks like, in this rare instance, Trump kept his promise, the Republican Supreme Court justices, during their Senate confirmation hearings, did not.
In fact, Justice Alito and the three justices nominated by President Trump all called Roe v. Wade an “important precedent” during their confirmation hearings.
Let me quote Justice Alito at his Senate confirmation on January 11, 2006: “Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. It was decided in 1973, so it has been on the books for a long time. It is a precedent that has now been on the books for several decades. It has been challenged. It has been reaffirmed.”
In 2017, Justice Gorsuch said at his confirmation hearing: “Roe v. Wade, decided in 1973, is a precedent of the United States Supreme Court. It has been reaffirmed. A good judge will consider it as precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court worthy as treatment of precedent like any other.”
In 2018, Justice Kavanaugh said at his confirmation hearing: “I said that [Roe v. Wade] is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles of stare decisis. And one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years, as you know, and most prominently, most importantly, reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.”
But today, it has become increasingly clear that despite these statements to the contrary, the three justices nominated by Trump were hired specifically to overturn Roe v. Wade. And, with Justice Alito at the helm, nominated by George W. Bush, that is precisely what it appears they are set out to do. Four justices – all appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. Is it any wonder why Americans all over the country are losing faith in their democracy?
Well, you know what I believe, M. President: If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to make abortion legal and safe.
Let’s be clear. If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe, abortion bans will immediately go into effect in 22 states in America with four others likely to follow suit. In ten of those states, it will be illegal to have an abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
For example, in the state of Texas, if Roe v. Wade is struck down, it will be considered a felony for any Texas doctor to perform an abortion for a woman who was raped or impregnated by a family member. Further, that law would actually criminalize abortion – punishing both women and doctors, who could face years in prison if they are found guilty.
Other states have passed similar types of legislation. Mississippi’s Governor has even refused to rule out the banning of contraception as a next step.
But, M. President, let’s be clear. The Supreme Court will not be able to ban abortion.
If you are wealthy and you have the means to get on an airplane or drive hundreds of miles – you will always have access to a safe abortion. But if you are poor or if you are in the working class you will not.
The reality is that overturning Roe would be devastating for working class and low-income women who don’t have the means to travel long distances to a clinic.
M. President: This issue is often framed as a “woman’s issue.” I disagree. This is a human rights issue and, if there’s ever a time in American history where the men of this country must stand with the women – this is that moment.
M. President, I find it somewhat amusing that the loudest voices in the Republican Party demanding that women be forced to give birth against their will are exactly the same people who oppose virtually every piece of legislation designed to improve life for children and their mothers.
They are opposed to paid family and medical leave in America.
They are opposed to extending the $300 a month child tax credit that expired in December.
They are opposed to universal childcare and pre-K.
They literally believe that it is acceptable for an employer to force a mom to go back to her low-wage job a week after giving birth.
M. President. Let me conclude by stating this. Women, throughout the history of this country, have had to fight valiantly for their basic human rights against all forms of patriarchy.
Let us never forget that when our country was formed, women were not just second-class citizens. They were third- or fourth-class citizens.
Women have been fighting for equal rights since the 1800s. They didn’t receive the right to vote until 1920. They needed a male co-signer on bank loans until 1974. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, women had to fight for entry into certain professions from which they were barred. The fight for equal pay continues to this day. We still haven’t fully passed the Equal Rights Amendment, despite 38 states ratifying it.
Let’s be clear: When it comes to the rights of women, we cannot go backwards. We must move forward.
We cannot go back to the days when women could not have full access to birth control.
We cannot go back to the days of wide-scale domestic violence against women.
The time has come for all of us to protect and expand women’s rights in America.
I thank the President and I yield the floor.