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On the 51st Anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Durbin Recommits to Protecting Reproductive Rights

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin highlights the health care crisis in a post-Roe America, condemns Republicans’ anti-abortion extremism

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recommitted to protecting reproductive rights on the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  During his speech, Durbin condemned the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overruled a nearly 50-year-old precedent that had been reaffirmed multiple times. 

“Roe v. Wade enshrined into law something that should have been a given: In America, women would have autonomy over their bodies,” said Durbin.  “The Dobbs decision was a win for extreme, conservative activists, who waged a relentless campaign to capture the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade, but it was a tragic loss for women’s rights.”

Overruling Roe v. Wade has unleashed a health care crisis in America.  Following the ruling, more than 20 states either banned or severely restricted access to abortion.  Many of these bans provide no exceptions for rape and incest, and many are insufficient in protecting the health and lives of mothers.  During his speech, Durbin highlighted Kate Cox’s story, a Texas mother of two, who was pregnant with her third child.  Unfortunately, her baby had trisomy 18—a genetic condition that is almost always fatal at birth or soon after.

“Kate and her husband made one of the hardest decisions—they [decided] to go forward with an abortion.  But in Texas, where they live, it is illegal in nearly all circumstances.  The Cox family hoped that the exception in Texas law for the life and health of the mother would allow her [Kate] to terminate the pregnancy.  Shockingly, it did not.  Although a state court judge initially ruled that Kate could obtain an emergency abortion, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately took legal steps to block Kate from receiving the care she needed,” Durbin continued. 

In addition to appealing the trial court’s decision to the Texas Supreme Court, Attorney General Paxton sent a letter to hospitals and doctors, warning that anyone involved in performing an abortion for Kate would face civil and criminal liability.  The Texas Supreme Court, controlled by Republicans, then ruled against Kate.  She was forced to go across state lines to terminate her pregnancy.

Durbin also spoke about Brittany Watts—a 34-year-old from Ohio, who was arrested after miscarrying in her bathroom.  Thankfully, a grand jury declined to indict her, understanding that miscarriages are a devastating—yet extremely common—pregnancy outcome that women should not be punished for.

“In a post-Roe America, these are the horrific situations that women—and the doctors who provide them care—often face.  Republican politicians in states like Texas and Ohio have made it clear that they do not trust the judgment of women and their families with these matters,” Durbin said.

Durbin’s home state of Illinois has become a safe haven for women seeking abortions.  Before Roe was overruled, only six percent of women seeking abortions at Illinois Planned Parenthood facilities traveled from out of state.  New data shows that the number of women traveling to Illinois for abortions rose nearly 50 percent in 2022.  Illinois experienced the largest increase of any state in the number of patients traveling from out of state for an abortion last year.  Durbin heard directly from an Illinois woman—Margaret—who unfortunately lost her son when she was 23 weeks pregnant.  She wrote to Durbin’s office saying, “I cannot stress how awful it was to lose a child I loved so much, but how glad I was to be in Illinois when this devastating thing happened.”

Durbin said, “We are proud to be a state that fights for women.  But there are consequences to blue states meeting increased demand for abortion care.  More than 28 million women of reproductive age live in states where abortion is banned, unavailable, or restricted… When thousands of women are forced to go out of state to get an abortion, it increases wait times for people in blue states and it puts enormous stress on providers and clinics.  Moreover, not every woman is able to afford the trip, find child care, or take time off work to travel to another state.  This creates inequities for those who are trying to access safe and legal abortions.”

Durbin concluded his speech by highlighting how popular abortion rights are to Americans across the country.  From Kansas to Kentucky, in every state where it has been on the ballot, abortion remains a winning issue.

Durbin concluded his speech by condemning anti-abortion activists who are targeting reproductive rights and health care.  Durbin also urged his colleagues to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.

“From trying to outlaw medication abortion—even in states where abortion is legal—to challenging a federal law that requires access to reproductive care in emergencies… anti-abortion advocates continue trying to chip away at women’s reproductive rights and health care.  And they’re not going to stop,” said Durbin.  “That is why we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.  Enshrining a woman’s right to choose into federal law is the right thing to do.  I urge my colleagues to act swiftly to fight for women.”

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.