Durbin Reflects On Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On The Devastating Fallout Since The Supreme Court Overruled Roe V. Wade

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor on the state of reproductive rights in America and steps he’s taking to shine a light on the serious threats to abortion rights nationwide, including holding last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue.  The hearing, entitled “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America,” examined the devastating fallout since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June 2022.  It was the first hearing focused on reproductive rights in the House or the Senate this Congress.  

“The American people have united together in support of the belief that reproductive rights are a fundamental right, and that extremist politicians have no business dictating the health care decisions of women and their doctors.  Just a few days ago, Republican lawmakers in two states failed to pass restrictive abortion laws.  And these weren’t blue states—far from it, [they were] South Carolina and Nebraska.  Cheers actually erupted outside the Nebraska legislature when their proposed abortion ban failed.  To some, the failure of these abortion bans, in Republican-controlled states, may be surprising.  But if you’ve been paying attention over the past year, it’s the only rational outcome.  In the months since the disastrous Dobbs decision, at least a dozen states have enacted near-total bans on abortion.  And the number of horror stories that have emerged as a result of them is staggering,” said Durbin.

Although Justice Alito claimed in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization majority opinion that overruling Roe settles the abortion debate by returning the issue to the states, the past ten months demonstrate that the opposite is true.  The abortion landscape is constantly changing and unsettled, resulting in women across the country—whether or not they live in states where abortion is restricted or banned—facing negative and sometimes life-threatening outcomes.

Durbin continued, “Perhaps the Court’s conservative majority should have paid closer attention to amicus briefs filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, who gave Justice Alito and the majority on the Supreme Court a fair warning about what was going to happen—an immediate health care crisis across America.” 

During his speech, Durbin highlighted the continued assaults on reproductive health care following the Dobbs decision.  By erasing the constitutional right to abortion, the right-wing majority opened the floodgates for new laws and new rulings restricting and even criminalizing abortion.  Doctors and health care providers across the country are unsure if they can legally provide essential care from one week to the next.  

One of the witnesses from last week’s hearingAmanda Zurawskiexplained how delaying access to an abortion while she was miscarrying led to life-threatening complications.  To her shock, her doctors told Amanda that they could not treat her until her baby’s heart stopped beating or until Amanda was sick enough for the hospital’s ethics board to deem that her life was at risk because of Texas’s new anti-abortion laws.  Amanda told the Committee, “People have asked why we didn’t get on a plane or in our car to go to a state where the laws aren’t so restrictive.  But we live in the middle of Texas, and the nearest ‘sanctuary’ state is at least an eight-hour drive.  Developing sepsis—which can kill quickly—in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence, and it’s not a choice we should have had to even consider. So all we could do was wait.”

“Several hours later, her daughter arrived, stillborn.  Amanda spent the next three days in the I.C.U. fighting for her own life.  She has spent the last eight months battling trauma and depression, as well as the medical fallout from her delayed treatment, including complications that may make it difficult to ever have children,” Durbin continued.

Durbin said, “Regrettably, some of our Republican colleagues tried to make last week’s hearing about what they called ‘late-term’ abortions and ‘partial birth’ abortions.  What they neglected to note is that abortions after 21 weeks account for less than one percent of abortions in this country, according to the CDC.  They also failed to acknowledge that in the very rare instances when an abortion happens later in a pregnancy, it is generally because the woman’s life is in danger, or a [fatal] fetal anomaly has been discovered, or because a woman wasn’t able to get an abortion earlier [in her pregnancy] due to restrictive state laws.” 

“Many families are deciding Republicans have gone too far with the Dobbs decision and [that] what's happening across the country is not only chaotic, it's immoral. It's immoral to have a young woman like Amanda face death when she was trying to do everything possible to have a baby and be a mother… I hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee can continue to bring this item before the American people,” Durbin concluded. 

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.