Schumer Floor Remarks On Republicans’ Assault On Women’s Reproductive Rights And The Need For The Trump Administration To Stay Strong Against China

May 21, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Republicans’ assault on women’s reproductive rights and the need for the Trump administration to stay strong against China. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now Madam President, over the last year, women’s reproductive rights have come under a new level of assault. From Alabama, to Missouri, to Texas, to Georgia and beyond, over 300 new restrictions have been proposed in 39 states.

Bans on abortion after as early as 6 weeks, so-called ‘heartbeat’ bills, arbitrary waiting periods, and restrictions on clinics so severe that they force any center that performs an abortion to close down, leaving a few of our states with no more than a single clinic. Ten such bills have now passed into law.

These restrictions fly in the face of public opinion; the vast majority of the American public don’t want to see Roe overturned or a woman’s right to choose curtailed so severely as to render it meaningless. So I understand why many of my colleagues here in the Senate don’t want to associate themselves with these extreme anti-abortion laws. Some of them have even publicly opposed the law passed by Alabama’s Republicans, including the House Republican Leader and the President.

But let’s face it: there is some sleight of hand going on here. Because while many of my colleagues don’t support these policies out loud, they are at the same time confirming judges to the federal bench with horrendous records on women’s rights, many of whom hold extreme views on Roe.

And these judges, in many ways, have just as much power as state legislatures to restrict a woman’s right to choose and limit access to contraceptives through the courts.

Just look at some of the judges the Republican Senate has approved in the past two years with almost unanimous support on the Republican side:

Look at Leonard Steven Grasz, who wrote about the “moral bankruptcy that’s the legacy of Roe v Wade.”

What about Amy Coney Barrett. She said that Roe v Wade had been “erroneously decided” and called the ACA’s birth control provisions “an assault on religious liberty.” A lot of these judges are not just against abortion, they’re against contraception. She’s on the bench for life and on President Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court.

And let’s not forget Justice Kavanaugh, who refused to affirm that Roe was settled law and now sits on the one body with the power to overturn it.

Just last week, Republicans confirmed Wendy Vitter, who said Planned Parenthood kills 150,000 a year and once pushed the idea that contraceptives caused cancer.

And we have more coming down the pipeline. Soon the Senate may consider the nomination of Stephen Clark, who belongs to an organization called “Lawyers for Life” that once compared Roe v. Wade to the Dredd Scott case.

So Republicans are playing a cynical long game here. They refuse to comment on the anti-abortion bills, but are content to install anti-choice judges across the bench who will uphold many of these very same laws. It’s hypocritical. It’s sort of like that old routine – they’re saying ‘no, no, no, I’m not for these laws. Judges? Approve them. I’m supporting judges who approve them.’ It is not fair. It is not right. It is cynical, and the American people are going to get wise to it.

Madam President, we are watching the endgame of a long and concerted campaign by the far right to erode a woman’s right to choose through the courts. From the moment that Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the most extreme elements of the Republican Party have plotted its demise. The Federalist Society was founded with the intent of cultivating a generation judges loyal to conservative causes; it’s founder Leonard Leo is above all an anti-choice advocate. Some would say even further – a fanatic.

And now that they have a Republican President and a Republican Senate, the Federalist Society can push judge after judge after judge onto the bench with barely a delay – with barely a discussion – where they will have the power to severely curtail a woman’s right to choose.

So my Republican friends who profess opposition or indifference to these extreme anti-abortion bills, while voting for hard-right, anti-Roe judges are engaging in subterfuge, if not hypocrisy.

Finally, a topic I’ve discussed before: the administration’s moves to block access to telecommunications equipment from China’s state-controlled and state-backed firms like Huawei.

I firmly back these measures. As our defense, law enforcement, and intelligence officials have publicly testified, Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies pose a national threat to the security of United Sates. Their technology could allow China to spy on Americans, steal their data, and otherwise conduct espionage.

But it's also – there’s another point. China has taken advantage of us. There is a huge consensus now in America that that has happened. We didn't have that consensus even five years ago, but whether it's business, labor, average American citizens, Democrats, Republicans -- everyone agrees China takes advantage. And one of the main ways they take advantage is they don't let our companies that have top-line products sell them in China, except under restrictions that make it almost impossible for them to do it. Our major tech companies are excluded from China, but China at the same time can sell anything it wants here. Reciprocity should be our watchword. If Google, or Facebook, or any of our other companies can't sell in China, their top companies shouldn't sell here until they let us in. That's what's happened with Huawei, in addition to the national security concerns, and it makes sense.

So I say to the Commerce Department: stay strong. We're now talking about some 90-day delay. I hope this is not prelude to what we did with ZTE where we stood tough at the beginning, it had an effect, and then we backed off. President Trump, don't back off on Huawei. Commerce Secretary Ross, don't back off on Huawei, Secretary Treasury Mnuchin, Ambassador Lighthizer, stay strong. This will get the Chinese to play fair, talking won't. Tariffs are one tool. This is another. We need all the tools in our toolbox to get China to play fair.