Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor after filing cloture on the motion to proceed to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify abortion access into federal law. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
I've just filed cloture on the Women's Health Protection Act. This week, the Senate will be confronted with a simple but urgent question: do women in this country have a basic right to make their own choices when it comes to seeking an abortion, yes or no?
It will be one of the most important questions this chamber confronts in decades, because for the first time in fifty years, women in America face the real possibility of living in a world where the protections of Roe v. Wade are a thing of the past. It will set up a situation where our children, women children, female children have less rights than their grandparents, something that is so un-American, taking away rights, stepping backward on rights in such a dramatic way.
So a few moments ago I set up a vote for Wednesday on legislation that will codify the fundamental right to an abortion into federal law. Every American is going to see where every Senator stands on protecting one of the most important rights a woman has regarding her own body.
I want to be clear: this week’s vote is not an abstract exercise; this is as real and as high stakes as it gets, and Senate Republicans will no longer be able to hide from the horror they’ve unleashed upon women in America. After spending years packing our courts with right wing judges and Justices, after changing the rules of the Senate to push three rigidly conservative Justices, after stealing the nomination of Merrick Garland, the time has come for Republicans – this new MAGA Republican party – to answer for their actions.
If Senate Republicans allow the Supreme Court’s decision to stand, it will be open season—open season—on women’s rights in America.
A few days ago, Leader McConnell himself acknowledged that a federal ban on abortions is now “possible” should the Supreme Court overturn Roe and Republicans take control of the Senate.
Let me say that again, because it is so dreadful: in light of the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision, Leader McConnell acknowledged that a national ban on abortion is now “possible” without Roe if Republicans reclaim the majority. Hear that America? A total ban. A total national ban on abortion, stated by not any Republican but by the Republican Leader.
Every single American needs to hear what Leader McConnell said. For years—for decades—Republicans have tried to disguise their hostility to abortion by claiming that all they really want is to let the states decide for themselves how they’ll treat the issue. It’s an old claim from the right: this is about states’ rights.
This argument has always been hypocritical, and Leader McConnell’s comments made it perfectly clear why. The game here is not about state’s rights; the goal has always been a national ban on abortions altogether. States’ rights is a smokescreen, nothing more than a distraction, a ruse to hide from the true claims of the MAGA Republicans: a national ban on abortion.
A federal restriction on abortion would be among the most extreme ideas ever pushed by Senate Republicans. But in light of Roe’s repeal it seems that’s the road MAGA Republicans want to take our country down.
And as scary as that is, I fear it is just the start. Ideas that have long been relegated to the fringes will return to the forefront with a vengeance: forced pregnancies, bans that make zero exceptions for rape and incest, even imprisonment for abortion providers and women who seek them, which is already being proposed.
Republicans are trying in vain to obscure this reality.
Last week, the Chair of the Senate Republican Campaign arm went as far as releasing an absurd collection of talking points trying to convince Americans that, no, Republicans don’t want to throw doctors and women in jail for carrying out abortions. Republicans should know their position is truly extreme when that has to be one of their talking points: oh, no, we don't want to throw women in jail.
But regardless of what the head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee might try and claim, the laws being passed at the state level tell a different, much darker story that totally contradict what he says.
In Arizona, for example, there’s a law on the books that states anyone who performs an abortion could be sentenced anywhere from two to five years in prison. The new law in Arizona provides zero exceptions for rape and for incest.
In Oklahoma, a new law also just came into effect banning abortion as early as six weeks and, like the law in Texas, empowers citizens to police each other’s conduct and sue women trying, simply trying, to access an abortion.
Again, zero exceptions for rape. Zero exceptions for incest. If, God forbid, a woman is raped and doesn’t want to have that child, Republicans want to allow some of them to go to jail and some of them to be sued by their fellow citizens. Is that not a disgrace, is that not scary, does that not say we all must fight this tooth and nail?
And now Republicans in Louisiana are even pushing a bill that could throw women and their health care providers in prison for life. For life.
This is the America that Senate Republicans have made possible.
An America where women in many states could be forced to follow through on their pregnancies against their will.
An America where abortions could be all but eliminated in more than half the states in the country.
An America where many states provide zero exceptions for something as evil as rape or incest. These laws could put women and girls in serious danger.
None of this is theoretical anymore; it is written into the veracity of the laws that have been passed by the hard right at the state level. And we know more are coming.
All of this, I bring to the feet of my Senate colleagues as we prepare to vote later this week. No more running. No more hiding. No more diversions. Leader McConnell can’t bring to talk about the actual effects of the law, expect when he made that one statement. Always diversions. Because they don’t want the American people to know how hard right, how fiercely anti-women, how vicious, even, some of their laws are.
I ask my colleagues to think carefully about their choice later this week. No more running, no more hiding, the vote will shine light on every single one of us. It’ll be like a floodlight and we’ll each have to make our position clear.
So again I ask my colleagues to think carefully about their choice later this week, because the consequences of this vote will stay with us for the rest of our time in office. The nation will be watching.
The rights of millions of American women are at stake, and they will be watching.
And there will be no hiding from where each of us stands on this most precious, most private, most personal decision that women ever have to make when it comes to their own bodies.