Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Revoking Your Rights: The Ongoing Crisis in Abortion Care Access"
Washington, May 18, 2022
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a full committee hearing on "Revoking Your Rights: The Ongoing Crisis in Abortion Care Access":
“Two weeks ago, in an unprecedented leak of a draft opinion from the Supreme Court, we learned that—for the first time in its history—the Court may be on the precipice of overturning precedent to take away a constitutional right.
“In so doing, it would revoke the constitutional right to abortion—a fundamental right it first recognized almost 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade, and one that millions of Americans have relied on for half a century.
“I want to state at the outset that I do not condone such leaks, and whoever was responsible must be held accountable.
“But now that we have this information, we cannot ignore the reality and the magnitude of what the Court may be poised to do and what Congressional Republicans have said that they will do once they are empowered to enact a ban on abortion nationwide.
“The decision to become a parent belongs to that individual. She may consult with her doctor or her loved ones to inform that decision—and I hope that she has such people in her life to help her make that decision—but the decision belongs to her. Period.
“Overturning Roe would remove from individuals the power to decide the fundamental question of whether to carry or terminate a pregnancy and, instead, would give that power to the State. It is both timely and appropriate for the Judiciary Committee to educate the American people about the devastating impact that such a decision would have, and to examine the ongoing crisis in abortion care access that already affects people all across the nation.
“Before continuing, I want to say something to all those who are currently considering abortion care. Despite these very real concerns about the state of access to abortion care or its continuing legality, let me be clear: abortion remains legal, and your right to get an abortion continues to be constitutionally protected, at least for now.
“Making decisions about when and how to start a family is central to women’s lives. The right to decide whether to carry or terminate a pregnancy is central to life, liberty, and equality.
“It is the very essence of what it means to have bodily autotomy, which is a prerequisite for freedom. Again, to say it simply, the decision to become a parent belongs to that individual. Period.
“No court decision is more essential to protecting a woman’s individual autonomy than Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case recognizing a constitutional right to abortion.
“Roe represented a watershed moment in our Nation’s history, recognizing the right of women to make reproductive decisions as a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and a pillar of women’s equality.
“In doing so, the Supreme Court continued a series of rulings that rejected government interference in Americans’ most intimate life decisions. To the Court, “[f]ew decisions [were] more personal and intimate, properly private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy than a woman’s decision . . . whether to end her pregnancy.”
“Almost 20 years later, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right to abortion, finding it central to a woman’s dignity, autonomy, and status as an equal citizen. Indeed, if Americans cannot make decisions about their reproductive health, they cannot make decisions about starting a career, going to school, opening a business, and planning their lives.
“Unfortunately, Roe and Casey remain under constant threat, resulting in an ongoing crisis in access to abortion and other vital health care services. Over the last decade, state legislatures have passed hundreds of bills designed to block individuals from accessing abortion care.
“Under the disingenuous claim that these laws protect women’s health, these states are deliberately attempting to put abortion out of reach. This is so in spite of the fact that numerous studies have concluded that giving birth involves more serious health complications than having an abortion.
“Meanwhile, according to the recently leaked draft majority opinion in the pending case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization authored by Justice Samuel Alito, an emboldened right-wing majority on the Supreme Court appears poised to revoke the right to abortion altogether.
“To be clear, this draft remains just that—a draft opinion—and we await the Court’s actual decision, expected to be handed down in the next several weeks. Nonetheless, we cannot simply ignore the fact that the Nation now appears to stand at a constitutional turning point.
“If the Supreme Court overturns or severely curtails Roe—a precedent that women have relied on for almost a half-century to make decisions about how best to order their lives—generations to come will have fewer rights than those that preceded them.
“At least 23 states have laws in place to limit abortions, including 13 that have “trigger laws” that would automatically ban all abortions if Roe were to fall, and at least 8 states have pre-Roe bans that would once again become enforceable should Roe be overturned. Practically overnight, whether the government protects the essential individual right to make reproductive healthcare decisions will depend entirely upon where in this country a person lives.
“Furthermore, if the leaked draft opinion becomes the Court’s actual decision, it would exacerbate an already-dire crisis in abortion care access. The consequences will be devastating. Women who cannot afford to travel, women of color, and women in rural communities will be disproportionately affected by state abortion bans and restrictions.
“People who work hourly jobs, already have children, or live many miles away from an abortion provider face impossible decisions and often insurmountable obstacles in finding the time, money, and support to access the care that they need—the care that is integral to their dignity and their fundamental freedom to live their lives on their own terms.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle will try desperately to change the subject in the hope that no one notices that, if Justice Alito’s draft opinion holds, millions of Americans will lose a fundamental constitutional right overnight.
“Do not let them get away with it.
“They will try to muddy the waters today by accusing Democrats of bullying the court, as if the wealthy, conservative justices poised to hand down this decision have it worse than the women and health care providers who risk imprisonment if they seek or perform an abortion after this decision takes effect.
“They will try to distract you from their ultimate goal: a ban on abortion nationwide, without exception.
“Republican voices in the media have tried to downplay the consequences of this decision by arguing that the leak itself is the problem, in that it threatens the integrity of the Court. As I said from the start, the leak is a problem—but I will not be lectured on how best to protect democratic institutions from the crowd that cheered on the mob on January 6 of last year and continues to perpetuate a gross lie about the last election.
“And as they accuse the leaker of undermining democracy, keep in mind the most stunning aspect of this draft opinion: Justice Alito’s words and logic, used today to undermine the right to abortion, provide a roadmap for the erosion of other fundamental rights, including the rights to marriage, to contraception, and to make decisions about raising our own children.
“Justice Alito’s assurances to the contrary in this draft opinion are cold comfort. He used the same logic to argue against the right to marriage in Obergefell, and there is no reason to believe that the same five justices will not engage in a similar raw exercise of power to overturn other basic rights should the opportunity arise.
“Ladies and gentlemen, at base, safe, legal, and accessible abortion continues to be fundamental to individual equality, autonomy, and personal liberty. The decision to become a parent belongs to that individual. We cannot go backward.
“Congress must now stand up with Americans around the country and refuse to turn back the clock.
“Republican leadership has already told us what they want Congress to do. For all their talk about returning power to the states, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that a national ban on abortion will be under consideration should Roe be overturned. And when that happens, living in a blue state will not save you from their attempt to take your decision about becoming a parent away from you. Nationwide means nationwide. Without exception means without exception.
“We cannot let that happen. Instead, Congress must act to ensure that every woman, regardless of geographic location, income, race, or any other factor, retains her constitutional right to access abortion. We will fight for legislation at every level of government to protect women’s health, to protect access to contraception, to protect access to IVF, and to protect abortion rights.
“Women must have the freedom to make decisions about their reproductive health without anyone questioning their intellect, morals, or honesty.
“I stand with the members of this Committee and millions of Americans around this country ready to fight for reproductive freedom. I thank our witnesses for being here and I look forward to their testimony.”