January 22, 2016

Hirono Marks Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Hirono: This Decision Enabled Women To Gain Control Over Their Own Bodies, And In Turn, Their Futures

Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to mark the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to access abortion care. Senator Hirono acknowledged the many challenges that women still face when accessing reproductive care, and called for the Supreme Court to continue to protect a woman’s right to access a full range of health care services.

From Senator Hirono’s remarks:

“This decision enabled women to gain control over their own bodies, and in turn, their futures. If the government interfered in other patient-doctor decisions the way that state and federal governments have interfered with women’s reproductive rights, there would be a national uproar.

“Why is it different when we talk about a woman’s body as opposed to a man’s? Can you imagine if states passed laws restricting fundamental decisions about a man’s medical care? Why is it that women have to defend deeply personal decisions over our own bodies in court and in legislatures?

“I recognize that there are deeply held beliefs by good people on both sides of this issue. Which is why the right to choose should be left to the individual woman and her doctor.”

Watch Senator Hirono’s floor speech here.

Read Senator Hirono’s full remarks below, as prepared for delivery:

Madam President.

I rise today to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Forty-three years ago, within the lifetime of most of us here, the Supreme Court’s decision effectively reversed draconian state laws prohibiting abortion and gave women power over their own health care decisions.

Before Roe v. Wade, nearly 5,000 American women died every year seeking abortion care that was legally not available to them.

That number dramatically dropped after the decision because women were able to get abortion care from trained medical professionals legally, out in the open.

The Court found that a woman’s right to access abortion care is a fundamental, constitutional right.

While as with many Constitutional rights, not totally unfettered, this decision enabled women to gain control over their own bodies, and in turn, their futures.

If the government interfered in other patient-doctor decisions the way that state and federal governments have interfered with women’s reproductive rights, there would be a national uproar.

Why is it different when we talk about a woman’s body as opposed to a man’s?

Can you imagine if states passed laws restricting fundamental decisions about a man’s medical care?

Why is it that women have to defend deeply personal decisions over our own bodies in court and in legislatures?

I recognize that there are deeply held beliefs by good people on both sides of this issue.

Which is why the right to choose should be left to the individual woman and her doctor.

Yet, ever since the Roe v. Wade decision, state and federal lawmakers have attempted to chip away at a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

Hundreds of laws have been passed by states to place limitations and roadblocks to a woman’s right to choose.

Restrictions such as mandatory delays, unduly burdensome regulations, and unscientific 20-week bans are all attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade.

In Congress, we continue to see unprecedented attacks on women’s reproductive health: destructive policy riders in spending bills, attacks on providers, and efforts to reduce women’s access to health care services all in the name of prohibiting abortion.

These attempts are not based on fact or science.

They do not advance any public policy goals in the interest of women, which is why many of us characterize these efforts as part of a deeply anti-women agenda.

Moreover, these restrictions disproportionately impact women of color and low-income women. 

Apparently, it is not enough to remove funding for reproductive services. The anti-women agenda includes reducing funding for maternal health programs and services for infants and children.

The lawmakers writing these restrictions are not the ones who will have to live with the negative consequences.

It’s women across the country who are facing the consequences.

The legal battles continue.

For example, the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments later this year on a Texas law that severely restricts the ability of women to access safe reproductive health care.

This law, which disproportionately impacts lower-income women, has already severely affected the ability of women in Texas to get the reproductive care they need.

The rhetoric around this case as well as the rhetoric employed by abortion foes, has become increasingly dangerous, leading to attacks on providers, clinics, and women seeking care.

I hope we can all agree to not return to the pre-Roe v. Wade landscape where women endangered their lives seeking reproductive care and thousands died doing so.

I urge my colleagues to join me in ensuring that women can continue to control their own destinies for the next 43 years and beyond.

I yield the floor.