Following The 50th Anniversary Of Roe v. Wade, Durbin Recommits To Protecting Reproductive Rights

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin highlights the health care crisis in a post-Roe America, condemns House Republicans’ anti-abortion extremism

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recommitted to protecting reproductive rights following the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  During his speech, Durbin condemned the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned a nearly 50-year-old precedent that had been reaffirmed multiple times.

“For those of us who were alive when Roe was decided, we remember what it meant for millions of Americans—the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions,”said Durbin.  “When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, our nation had a long, long way to go in living up to the promise of equal justice under law… And 50 years later, we still have a long way to go, of course—but Roe was a breakthrough.  Well, today, sadly, marks a very different anniversary.  It was seven months ago today when six right-wing, judicial activists sent us back in time.  Of course I’m referring to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organizationthe crowning achievement of a Republican-led, decades-long campaign to overturn Roe and abolish reproductive rights in America.”

During his speech, Durbin disputed the legal argument in Justice Alito’s majority decision, which claimed that abortion cannot be constitutionally protected because it is not, “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition.”  

Durbin argued, “He’s wrong.  Because, whatever you think about abortion, it has deep roots in our history.  As the dissenting Justices in Dobbs wrote, ‘embarrassingly for the majority—early law in fact does provide some support for abortion rights.’  The dissent noted that common-law authorities did not treat abortion as a crime before the point of fetal movement in the womb—also known as ‘quickening.’  And as Justice Alito himself conceded, historians dispute whether [pre-quickening abortions were] punished before the 19th century.  So there’s no precedent for overturning Roe.  It wasn’t originalism, and it wasn’t textualism—it was an outcome based on historical cherry picking.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade has unleashed a health care crisis in America.  In just seven months, 24 states have either banned, or severely restricted access to abortion.  Many of these bans provide no exceptions for rape and incest and many are insufficient in protecting the health and lives of mothers. 

“If these Republican lawmakers had actually listened to all of the medical professionals who sounded the alarm on overturning Roe, if these lawmakers had actually listened to all of the Americans who took to the streets in protest or the millions of voters who rejected their radical, anti-choice agenda, maybe they would understand this simple, indisputable truth: You cannot ban abortion out of existence.  The only thing these laws achieve is pushing women into dangerous situations,” said Durbin. 

During his speech, Durbin went on to highlight Christina Zielke’s story.  Over the summer, Christina and her husband were expecting their first child, but the pregnancy ended abruptly in a miscarriage.  Christina was denied care in an Ohio hospital after she suffered severe complications related to her miscarriage, and almost died, due to Ohio’s strict abortion ban. Ohio’s abortion ban subjects health care providers who violate it to felony charges, up to a year in prison, loss of medical license, and fines up to $20,000.  And the law is so unclear that even medical professionals struggle to navigate its narrow exceptions.

“Christina’s doctor had already told her that her pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage,” continued Durbin.  “But when she arrived at that Ohio hospital, the medical staff refused to provide her care because of the abortion ban.  So, while Christina was still in danger and carrying a fetus with no heartbeat, the hospital discharged her… Hours later, she returned to that same ER.  By that point, she had lost so much blood that she lost consciousness.  Christina’s family thought she was going to die.  And let’s be blunt: the only reason her life was in peril is because of Ohio’s abortion ban.  This is America’s post-Roe reality: Women being denied urgent care because doctors and nurses are afraid of breaking the law.”

Durbin’s home state of Illinois has become a safe haven for women seeking abortions.  Before Roe was overturned, only six percent of women seeking abortions at Illinois Planned Parenthood facilities traveled from out of state.  Since the Dobbs decision, that has increased to 30 percent.  During his speech, Durbin praised Governor Pritzker for signing a bill that would protect women traveling to Illinois for reproductive care.  Sadly, Planned Parenthood clinics in Illinois and across the country have been targeted by anti-abortion extremists. 

Durbin said, “In a post-Roe America, the mere act of seeking reproductive care—even for a procedure as simple as a pap smear—has taken on new risks.  Lawmakers on both sides need to condemn this—and any form—of politically-motivated violence against any person or entity.”

Even before Roe was overturned, the United States had the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world.  And as of 2020, those death rates are more than 60 percent higher in states with abortion restrictions.  Studies show that more than four in five pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.  Durbin and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) have teamed up to pass a law that gives states the option to expand health coverage under Medicaid from 60 days postpartum, to a full year.  Today, there are 15 states that have not extended Medicaid postpartum coverage, and 12 of those very same states have also passed laws restricting or outlawing abortion.

Durbin then encouraged his colleagues to restore and codify the right to reproductive freedom and pass pro-family policies—like the MOMMA Act, which would mandate a Medicaid expansion of postpartum health coverage in all states. 

Durbin concluded his speech by slamming the new MAGA majority in the House of Representatives.  Less than one month into the 118th Congress, House Republicans have introduced nearly a dozen anti-abortion bills.

“Well, here’s my promise: Every one of these bills will die in the Senate.  They’re going nowhere because this majority, and President Biden, understand that all Americans deserve reproductive rights.  And until we have a Congress and Supreme Court that is willing to protect those rights, we will do everything in our power to stand against their extremist, anti-choice agenda,” 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.