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Durbin Urges the Senate to Swiftly Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act

Durbin calls for legislation to codify access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care

WASHINGTON – During Women’s History Month, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor emphasizing the need to codify access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care rights for millions of Americans after the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade last year.  In his remarks today, Durbin expressed his support for the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which he and his Democratic colleagues reintroduced this week.

“Yesterday, I joined Leader Schumer, Senators Baldwin, Blumenthal, and Murray and a number of my colleagues in introducing a piece of legislation that is urgently needed.  It's entitled the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023.  This bill would protect the right to obtain and provide reproductive health care, as basic as anything in America, as well as the freedom of Americans to seek this care free of medically unnecessary restrictions or limitations as to where a patient can receive it,” said Durbin.

“It's been about nine months since the Thomas-Alito court ripped away this fundamental right in America and put a target on the backs of women and health care providers across the country.  Since then we've heard one horror story after another, stories of rape victims as young as 10 years old who've been forced to travel across state lines to receive critical health care.  Stories of women who are suffering miscarriages but still have been denied care by doctors in red states where the doctors are afraid of being charged with a crime,” Durbin continued.  “Stories of women who've been abandoned by their state's leaders, many of whom have found refuge in the state of Illinois.”

Durbin spoke about the necessity of passing WHPA in order to place a check on Republican state legislatures who are enacting cruel and draconian abortion bans—many of which pose an immediate and life-threatening risk to women suffering miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, or other pregnancy-related complications—in an attempt to score political points at the expense of many Americans’ health and bodily autonomy.

“Despite these stories of girls and women who've been denied critical health care because of partisan politics, Republicans are continuing to push dangerous abortion bans and restrictions.  These politicians think they know better than the women who are affected by these decisions and their doctors.  Beware of the moment when legislators start playing doctor… We need to respect the freedom and right of women and the expertise of their medical professionals, period,” Durbin said.

As abortion access has become increasingly restricted in some states, Durbin urged Walgreens to reconsider its decision denying women in certain states access to the medication abortion drug mifepristone.  Despite the drug earning the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more than 20 years ago, Republican attorneys general in more than 20 states have threatened Walgreens with legal action if its pharmacies dispense the medication in these states.  Durbin spoke with Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer earlier this week to press the company to do everything within its power to ensure that women nationwide will be able to access to the full-range of FDA-approved reproductive health care options.

“This week I was on the phone with the CEO of Walgreens, an Illinois-based company, one of the largest pharmacy companies in the United States of America.  They are torn currently by an announcement of policy earlier this week which generated a lot of controversy.  Whether or not they will dispense medications which are used to end a pregnancy.  I begged of them to at least wait until this issue has become clearer in the courts before taking a corporate position.  The other major pharmacy chains are making the same decisions themselves.  We'll find out what they conclude,” Durbin said.

“But it's an indication that this debate has gone far beyond the floor of the United States Senate in Washington.  It's on your street corner.  It's in your mall.  It's in the shopping center that you've been going to all your life, as to whether or not you can have access to a drug that was judged safe and effective 20 years ago by the federal government.  That’s what happens when legislators decide to become doctors,” Durbin concluded.

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June of last year, millions of Americans are being denied or delayed access to necessary and potentially life-saving treatment—including for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage management—because of new legal risks to providers. The harms caused by these abortion restrictions fall heaviest on populations that already experience inequities, including people with low incomes, people of color, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities, and those living in rural and other medically underserved areas.

The Women’s Health Protection Act creates federal rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access and creates federal protections against medically unnecessary restrictions that undermine Americans’ access to health care and intrude upon personal decision-making.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would:

  1. Prohibit states from imposing restrictions that jeopardize access to abortion earlier in pregnancy, including many of the state-level restrictions in place prior to Dobbs, such as arbitrary waiting periods, medically unnecessary mandatory ultrasounds, or requirements to provide medically inaccurate information.
  2. Ensure that later in pregnancy, states cannot limit access to abortion if it would jeopardize the life or health of the mother.
  3. Protect the ability to travel out of state for an abortion, which has become increasingly common in recent years.

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.