Durbin Urges Colleagues To Protect A Woman's Right To Access Critical Reproductive Care

On the Senate floor, Durbin highlights the necessity of an abortion to save the mother’s life

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the conservative Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.  In the speech, Durbin continued to call on his colleagues to support enshrining into law a statutory right to an abortion. Durbin also highlighted various instances where an abortion is necessary, including a 10-year-old rape victim who was denied an abortion in Ohio and had to travel across state lines.

“Because she [the 10-year-old rape victim] was six weeks and three days pregnant, she couldn't qualify for a procedure to terminate her pregnancy,” said Durbin. “And there were those who disputed that it ever happened and denied such a thing could occur and it turned out they were wrong. It did happen. I was saddened to read that one of the members in the right to life movement said that she should carry that pregnancy to term. You have seen 10-year-olds, I have too, and at that age you question whether they can cross a busy street without help, and to have someone say, she should carry the baby to term, ignores her safety.”

During his speech, Durbin highlighted Rachel Brown, a pregnant cancer patient who had to terminate a pregnancy to undergo chemo therapy and save her life.

Durbin, reading from a New York Times article said, “If the life of a fetus is paramount, a pregnancy can mean a woman cannot get effective treatment for her cancer. One in a thousand women who gets pregnant each year is diagnosed with cancer, meaning thousands of women are facing a serious and possibly fatal disease while they are expecting a baby… The Supreme Court decision hit her [Rachel] hard. [She said] I feel like my life didn't matter and my children's lives didn't matter, it didn't matter if I lost my life because I was forced to be pregnant. That is the reality today.”

The article also highlighted the legal hurdles doctors now face in a post-Roe America. The Senate Judiciary Committee previously held a hearing examining the legal consequences of the Dobbs decision and the chaos created by overturning Roe—including the criminalization of providers and potentially patients. 

Durbin concluded, “To jeopardize the health, the safety, and even the life of the mother in this circumstance and to leave doctors to wonder if they have liability for professional medical care is something this nation should never see but we face it now and it's up to us to show leadership and come together, I hope, and bring back the constitutional protections that have been the [law] for 50 years.”

On the legislative front, Senate Democrats have sought to pass the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, which would protect patients’ fundamental right to travel across state lines to access abortions, as well as legislation that would increase funding for the Title X Family Planning Program to protect access to critical reproductive health care services—including birth control and cancer screening. Republicans blocked both of these vital measures.

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.