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Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "The Texas Abortion Ban and its Devastating Impact on Communities and Families"

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a hearing on "The Texas Abortion Ban and its Devastating Impact on Communities and Families:"

"Sixty-five days.  That is how long women in Texas have been effectively stripped of their constitutional right to abortion.

"Earlier this year, Texas enacted Senate Bill, or SB, 8, which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—before many people even know that they are pregnant—thereby effectively blocking abortion access in the state entirely.  But although the law is clearly unconstitutional, its unique structure—which relies solely on a private enforcement system—has, thus far, allowed it to evade judicial review on the merits.

"SB 8 offers up a bounty—a minimum of $10,000 and legal fees—to those who successfully bring a suit under the law’s private cause of action provision.  This provision permits any individual to sue not only abortion providers but anyone who 'aids or abets' a violation of the abortion ban, a term so broad that it could encompass practically any action—from driving a patient to a clinic to merely offering personal advice.

"This law created a perfect storm in Texas, which already had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, because of the way it was written and because of its enforcement method.  The Supreme Court had two opportunities to stop the law from taking effect during pending legal challenges, and twice it failed to do so.  As a result, communities and families in Texas have been devastated, and the ban has had ripple effects felt in states around the region and the country.

"There is no question that SB 8 is blatantly unconstitutional and that the Texas legislature intentionally ignored decades of legal precedent in enacting the law.  But to anyone who has been paying attention, this law did not appear out of nowhere.  Rather it is the result of a decades-long, well-funded campaign by anti-abortion activists to steadily chip away at the right to abortion.  These efforts have culminated in SB 8 and they have had one goal—to challenge and, eventually, to overturn the constitutionally-protected right to abortion.

"Nearly fifty years ago, the Supreme Court recognized that right in Roe v. Wade.  The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld this critical constitutional right against legal challenge.  Generations of Americans have come to rely upon the right to abortion to make the deeply personal decision about whether or when to have children.  As the Supreme Court observed nearly 30 years ago when it re-affirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey '[t]he 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.'

"Access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion allows people to make choices about their own lives—when to start a new job, when to go back to school, and eventually when to start or grow a family. When states chip away at—or, in the case of Texas, nearly ban—abortion access, they are not just controlling women’s bodies. They are controlling their lives. And that impact falls most directly on communities of color, low-income women, and vulnerable populations.

"This hearing occurs just days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, and United States v. Texas—legal challenges to SB 8 brought by abortion care providers and the Department of Justice, respectively.   At the heart of these cases is the question of whether a state can effectively nullify the Constitution within their borders.  SB 8 is designed to thwart a court’s authority to review and potentially block a state law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right before it takes effect by delegating to private parties the authority to enforce the law. 

"SB 8’s bounty system—which is just as troubling as the six-week ban it is meant to enforce—was a deliberate and disturbing effort by the Texas legislature to evade judicial scrutiny long enough for a clearly unconstitutional law to take effect.  And it worked.  SB 8’s bounty system should be concerning to anyone who holds dear their constitutional rights.

"As Justice Kavanaugh—likely no fan of abortion rights—suggested during oral arguments on Monday, SB 8 could set a troubling precedent and a model for states to undermine not only abortion rights, but any constitutional right that a state legislature may disfavor, whether it be the right to free speech, the right to religious liberty, or the right to bear arms.

"In addition, this perverse bounty system is designed to have a chilling effect on the ability of people to access abortion.  Pregnant people in Texas may now be reluctant to confide in once-trusted neighbors, co-workers, or friends, or to seek help from organizations and advocates if they have questions. Providers have expressed confusion and concern about how to advise their patients and where to seek care for pregnancy complications. The system was built to create fear, anxiety, and isolation for women and for providers in the state. And in many ways, it has succeeded.

"But SB 8 has not diminished the need for abortion in Texas or anywhere else in this country.  People in Texas, particularly those in communities of color and low-income communities, already faced immense hurdles in accessing abortion.

"In the last twenty years, Texas has passed some of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country.  Even before SB 8, women were required to make multiple appointments, receive medically unnecessary sonograms, and listen to false and misleading anti-abortion propaganda.  And because Texas bars any insurance—public or private—from covering abortion care, women must pay for this entire process out of their own pockets, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,200. All of this assumes that they can even reach an abortion provider, when more than 900,000 Texans of reproductive age live more than 150 miles from an abortion provider.

"None of these rules and restrictions are science-based or medically necessary. They are designed to stop women from accessing abortion and to control women’s lives, plain and simple. And Texas is not alone in enacting these restrictions. States around the country have passed similar laws, and many now stand poised to pass copycat SB 8 laws as well.

"These restrictions and laws make abortion almost completely inaccessible, and they hit communities of color and low-income families the hardest. People who work hourly jobs, already have children, or live miles away from an abortion provider face impossible decisions and often insurmountable obstacles in finding the time, money, and support to access care.  All of these steps and decisions take time, pushing people later into their pregnancies and making care more difficult to access and more expensive.

"And SB 8 has only exacerbated this situation. The need for abortion has not disappeared in Texas under SB 8 even as the number of abortions provided in Texas has dropped by an estimated 50 percent. People are now seeking care out of state, traveling hundreds more miles, taking more days off of work, and spending much more money.

"All of this to get the care that they need.

"The care that they have a constitutional right to access.

"The care that is integral to their dignity and their fundamental freedom to live their lives on their own terms.

"Because ultimately, the conversation about SB 8 and abortion rights is not a theoretical one. As we will hear today, SB 8 and similar abortion restrictions are impacting real women and real families every day.

"I will stand with these women, and with their providers.

"I will not stop fighting to protect the right to abortion and the right of every American to live their lives with dignity.

"I thank our witnesses for being here and I look forward to their testimony."

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