I was 18 years old when the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions in Roe v. Wade. If you’ve only known an America where abortion was safe and legal, it can be hard to comprehend the suffering woman endured before Roe. But in this country – the wealthiest on earth – women died without access to basic reproductive health care. I never thought that in my 66th year, politicians and partisan judges would turn back the clock to that dark time.
Just this month, the Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block S.B. 8 – Texas’s draconian law that ends almost all abortion access in the state. In failing to stand up for its own legal precedent, the Court has opened the floodgates for a total rollback of Roe. Without explicitly saying so, the five justices who made this decision effectively overturned the 1973 ruling.
Texas’s S.B. 8 is so extreme that it denies abortion care at six weeks, which is before many women even know they are pregnant; it provides no exemptions for cases of rape or incest; and it allows an Uber or Lyft driver to be sued simply for driving a woman to an abortion provider. In fact, any individual who aids a woman to medically terminate her pregnancy can be civilly sued and bankrupted. With a green light from the Supreme Court, other Republican governors and state legislators are already vowing to enact laws modeled after Texas’s.
Yet, what happened in Texas wasn’t a sudden, overnight assault on women’s health.
The bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the culmination of a decades-long campaign waged by anti-women’s health political operatives to erode our constitutional rights, state legislature by state legislature, using Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. TRAP laws are expensive and medically unnecessary requirements imposed on abortion providers and women's health centers, which are written with precision to undermine Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, there has also been a generations-long strategic effort by Republican politicians to pack the courts with rightwing jurists who seek to criminalize a woman’s control over her own body.
Remember President Trump’s judicial litmus test? He promised to only appoint justices who would strike down Roe and said that women who get abortions should be “punished.” The Senate confirmed all three of Trump’s anti-women’s health justices. Now, American women are feeling the ruinous result of those confirmations. The Supreme Court today is at its most partisan in over a century. The justices discarded a near-half-century precedent without a second thought. I have little doubt they overturned Roe v. Wade quietly in hopes that Americans would not notice.
But we noticed.
Radical campaigns to implement TRAP laws and pack the courts have gone on for too long. It is time for Congress to act.
To start, I have cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). This legislation would protect abortion access nationwide and finally codify the protections established in Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. The WHPA also includes provisions that would prevent states from enacting restrictions on abortion, effectively overturning Texas’s S.B. 8. States would still have the power to regulate health care, but it would prevent them from imposing discriminatory restrictions on abortion care.
The House will soon vote on this bill. But it isn’t enough. I strongly support President Biden’s drive to confirm as many qualified judges to our federal courts as possible to balance the court-packing that happened under Donald Trump. Our laws must be interpreted by neutral jurists driven by fact and precedent.
The denial of abortion rights anywhere in America is a threat to the health of women everywhere. That’s why I will proudly vote for the WHPA when it comes to the House floor this week. We cannot and will not go back.