House moves to guarantee all Americans access to abortion care
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to approve a landmark piece of legislation that would give all Americans the federally-protected right to access abortion care, regardless of where they live.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would – for the first time – establish a federal statutory right for all health care providers throughout the country to provide abortion services, and a federal statutory right for all Americans to receive such care, regardless of where they live.
It would codify the protections currently guaranteed to most Americans by the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade.
The legislation’s passage comes on the heels of, and in direct response to the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month to let a controversial new law in Texas, which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, take effect – effectively banning most abortion care in the state.
If signed into law, the Women’s Health Protection Act would negate that controversial new Texas law – as well as any other attempts by local or state governments to unnecessarily limit Americans’ access to abortion care.
“For people in Texas, the fifty years of legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade is effectively meaningless,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. “For people in Mississippi, the constitutional right to access abortion care may soon no longer exist. This legislation will ensure that all Americans – regardless of where they live – have a federally-protected right to access abortion care. It will negate the Texas and Mississippi laws, and it will guarantee all women in this country – once again – have the freedom to decide what’s best for them.”
“But maybe most importantly,” DeGette said, “this legislation will end our reliance on the courts.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to deny an emergency request to block the new Texas abortion law before it took effect sparked outrage from pro-choice advocates across the country who saw it as a clear sign of where the court was heading when it comes to protecting Americans’ constitutional right to abortion care.
After allowing the new Texas law to stand, the Supreme Court announced that on December 1 it will hear oral arguments in a Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that’s seen as a direct attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Make no mistake,” DeGette said, “this is all part of a broader, concerted effort to turn back the clock on Americans’ reproductive rights in this country. And the need for Congress to act has never been more urgent.”
Since 2011, anti-abortion lawmakers have passed nearly 500 restrictive laws through state legislatures aimed at making it harder – and sometimes impossible – for women in those states to access the abortion care they need.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would negate those laws and preempt any future attempts by state and local governments to unnecessarily limit Americans’ right to seek abortion care. And it would establish a federal statutory right for health care providers to provide abortion services, and a federal statutory right for patients to receive such care – regardless of where they live.
At a press conference Friday morning ahead of the vote, Speaker Pelosi hailed DeGette’s leadership on the issue and her efforts to get the landmark legislation to the floor.
“That morning, when we heard the decision, Diana DeGette had the collective wisdom of the co-chairs of this caucus and she gave me chapter and verse,” Pelosi said. “Diana DeGette has fought this issue in the courts and won. She’s fought it in the Congress. She’s fighting it in the court of public opinion.”
After the press conference, DeGette took to the House floor to challenge her colleagues on the other side of the aisle who were opposed to the legislation to change their thinking on the issue.
“Let me suggest a different paradigm that protects the full range of women’s health care freedom in this country,” DeGette said. “I’ll decide what happens to my body and you decide what happens to yours. I’ll decide what’s best for my health and my body, and you decide what’s best for yours.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act was approved in the House by a vote of 218 - 211. It now heads to the Senate where a companion bill (S. 1975) introduced in June by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has 47 cosponsors.
Video of DeGette’s remarks at today’s press conference prior to the vote is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIS37Ej1LJw
Video of Pelosi’s remarks hailing DeGette’s leadership on the issue is available here: https://youtu.be/7QEZxDp3OU4
Video of DeGette’s remarks on the House floor is available here: https://youtu.be/tKR_3dTGZs0
Following are transcripts of DeGette’s remarks, as delivered:
U.S Rep. Diana DeGette
Remarks at Press Conference on Women’s Health Protection Act
September 24, 2021
Today, the House of Representatives will be taking a stand.
For more than 50 years, women across this country have had the right to access the abortion care they need because of a landmark decision made in that building, right over there.
That right, however, no longer exists for millions of women.
For people in Texas, right now, the 50 years of legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade is effectively meaningless.
For people in Mississippi, the constitutional right to access abortion care may soon no longer exists.
And, sadly, those women are not alone.
If we don’t act fast, women’s ability to access abortion care in this country could quickly become a thing of the past.
In just the last decade, anti-choice politicians have enacted nearly 500 state-based abortion restrictions across the U.S.
And, as a result today, nearly 90 percent of counties in this country no longer have a single abortion provider.
Enough is enough.
If the justices over in that building there won’t act, The U.S. House of Representatives will act.
The decision whether to have an abortion is one that should be made between a patient and their doctor. Period, end of story.
Studies have shown that denying access to abortion care – just like denying access to any important medical procedure – can have a profound impact on their long-term on a person’s mental and physical health.
A woman denied an abortion is three times more likely to fall into poverty as a result.
While abortion restrictions - like those in Texas and Mississippi – apply to everybody, they disproportionately impact women of color; those working to make ends meet; and people who live in more rural parts of the country where healthcare is less available.
So, this bill ensures that all Americans – no matter what their race, no matter their socioeconomic position, no matter where they live – will have equal access and freedom to get the care that they need.
It will negate the Texas and Mississippi laws; and it will guarantee all women in this country – once again – have the ability and the freedom to decide what’s best for them.
But, maybe most important thing this bill will do is: It will end our reliance on the courts to protect people for the medical care they need and deserve.
The American public have spoken on this issue and they are squarely behind us, despite what our opponents say.
The vast majority of Americans in recent studies show that Americans support a woman’s right to access the abortion care they need.
And, our willingness to fight for that right is why they elected all of us to serve here in the first place.
You know what, I couldn’t be more proud to serve among a more courageous group of people.
Like so many in this country, we know what’s at stake in this fight.
We know that we are standing here today, not on our own accord, but the shoulders of the people that we represent.
We owe it to them to continue this fight.
I owe it to my two daughters to continue this fight.
We owe it to the generations of women who came before us – and whose fearless courage helped secure these rights in the first place – to continue what they started.
Fighting for equality, equity and justice is why we’re here; and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
The first step today is to pass Representative Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act and we are so excited to be able to do that.
I’m not honored to introduce my co-chair, my partner in all of this, Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette
Remarks on the House Floor
September 24, 2021
Madam Speaker: What we are seeing in Texas, Mississippi, and elsewhere is an unprecedented attack on Americans’ right to abortion care.
It’s a systemic effect by politicians who want to roll back the clock on women’s healthcare freedom in this country.
To those who continue to rehash the same outdated arguments, that would put their own personal beliefs on millions of women and say it’s somehow good for America, I say save your breath.
And for these overheated claims that are being made today on this floor, and the rhetoric, I say that’s simply not the case.
Madame Speaker, let me suggest a different paradigm that protects the full range of women’s health care freedom in this country.
I’ll decide what happens to my body, and you decide what happens to yours.
I’ll decide what’s best for my health and for my life, and you decide what’s best for yours.
What’s at stake in this fight is not some frivolous benefit, it’s the fundamental right of women across this country to decide.
I urge my colleagues to vote yes.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Remarks at Press Conference on Women’s Health Protection Act
September 24, 2021
That morning, when we heard the decision, Diana DeGette had the collective wisdom of the co-chairs of this caucus and she gave me chapter and verse.
Diana DeGette has fought this issue in the courts and won. She’s fought it in the Congress. She’s fighting it in the court of public opinion. And, that leadership is what we all do.