Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during the Committee's first hearing on abortion rights in the 116th Congress. The hearing, which took place in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, focused on threats to reproductive rights at the state and court level, and how Congress can respond:
"Thank you, Chairman Cohen, for convening this hearing to address the ongoing assault against women’s reproductive rights that we are witnessing across the nation.
"This country has reached a crisis point for women’s constitutional right to control their own bodies and reproductive choices. States have passed unconstitutional bill after unconstitutional bill imposing new, extreme restrictions on abortion, setting the most direct challenge to Roe v. Wade we have seen in decades.In the month of May alone, Alabama outlawed abortion outright, making no exceptions even in cases of rape or incest; Georgia and Louisiana effectively outlawed abortion at just six weeks into a pregnancy; and Missouri outlawed abortion just eight weeks into a pregnancy. These laws would in many instances ban abortion before women even know they are pregnant. Meanwhile, the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld portions of an extreme anti-abortion law from Indiana, and the last abortion clinic in Missouri came to the brink of being forced to close its doors after the state refused to issue its license.Had a court not intervened, Missouri would have been the first state – but surely not the last – without a single abortion clinic.
"After decades of chipping away at the right to an abortion, states now realize that the new conservative majority in the Supreme Court presents an opportunity to either overturn Roe completely or to so radically undermine the right to an abortion to render it essentially meaningless.But the need for safe, legal abortion will never be meaningless.The right to have an abortion is fundamental to women’s equality, autonomy, and personal liberty. Making decisions about when and how to start a family is central to women’s lives. As the Supreme Court put it 27 years ago—when it upheld Roe after nearly two decades of challenges—“the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
"We will not go backward. If women cannot make decisions about their reproductive health, they cannot make decisions about starting a career, going to school, opening a business, and planning their lives. When you restrict access to abortion, you strip women of the fundamental freedom to live life on their own terms.
"The last few weeks have seen an all-out, frontal attack on the right of every woman in this country to access abortion, but this fight is not new and these laws have not come out of nowhere.The bans and extreme restrictions enacted in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana—as well as in many others—represent some of the most extreme legislation coming from the states. But over the last decade, state legislatures have passed hundreds of bills designed to block women from accessing care. These laws impose medically unnecessary regulations on doctors and on clinics—right down to the clinics’ physical dimensions.Some states have even gone so far as to require women who receive abortions by taking a pill—rather than through surgery—to take that pill inside a clinic that must meet the standards of a full surgical facility. Under the disingenuous claim that these types of laws protect women’s health, these states are deliberately attempting to put abortion out of reach, particularly for low-income women and women of color.
"These laws set arbitrary and unnecessary waiting periods that force women to take extra time off of work and delay care; they require unnecessary tests and biased counseling that do nothing but drive up the cost of abortion care; they set arbitrary regulations for providers that are designed solely to force clinics to close; and most egregiously, they are designed to intimidate and shame women for ever making the constitutionally protected choice to have an abortion.
"And this is not only happening in the states.Here in the United States Congress, the Republican-controlled Senate is considering a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a bill that has no basis in science and is prima facie unconstitutional.Meanwhile, the current Administration has taken every opportunity to undermine the right to access abortion and even contraception.It seems every other week the Administration nominates a new anti-choice federal judge or official, promulgates yet another rule undermining access to birth control or ending unbiased family planning services, and announces yet another new policy to protect those who discriminate against patients seeking an abortion rather than protecting the patients themselves.
"Enough is enough.Congress must now stand up with women and men around the country to say we will not turn back the clock on women’s constitutional rights and women’s autonomy.It is my hope that today’s hearing is Congress’s first step towards shoring up the right to abortion across this country through legislation like Representative Judy Chu’s “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would put an end to states banning or otherwise limiting access to abortion; Representative Barbara Lee’s “EACH Woman Act,” which would end abortion coverage bans; or other legislative initiatives.
"We must act to ensure that every woman, regardless of state, income, race, or any other factor, retains her constitutional right to access abortion. Women must have the freedom to make decisions about their lives without anyone questioning their intellect, morals, or honesty.I stand with the members of this Committee and millions of women and men around this country ready to fight for that freedom.
"I yield back my time."