Disapproving the Action of the District of Columbia Council in Approving the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: March 8, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, I am delighted to follow Leader Schumer, for whom this has been such an important issue. I am confident that we will gather our caucus together to be as effective as we can.

Today is International Women's Day, but this year it is shadowed by the freedom that women have lost in America to make their own choices and to shape their own lives. A radical Supreme Court captured by deep- pocketed special interests has shredded this constitutional right. It is a whole separate story how that happened, how big dark money interests went into back rooms at the Federalist Society, handpicked Supreme Court Justices, put them on the Court, spent millions and millions of dollars orchestrating all of that and putting TV ads on behind them--all run through phony front groups--and now instruct them what to do through a whole bunch of other phony front groups, also dark money funded, that go in as amici curiae and present these arguments in orchestrated flotillas to the Court--a separate issue but a very unfortunate situation behind this horrible decision.

What I want to talk about is how hurtful and harmful this is when things go wrong. Everybody hopes and prays that their pregnancy will be successful and there will be a healthy birth. But it is not uncommon in a pregnancy for things to go wrong. And when things go wrong, these extreme abortion restrictions put the doctors and the patient into impossible and wrong situations.

We hear about doctors who have postponed care until a patient's health or pregnancy complication had deteriorated so much that their life was in actual immediate danger.

You could have predicted it. You could have taken the prudent course, but the shadow of these criminal penalties--this assault on women's freedom--has made doctors postpone that decision, and it does, in fact, put patients' lives at risk.

There are committees that have been set up to determine whether a doctor making a decision about a woman's care should be allowed to proceed. You have to go through the hospital committee because of the risk of liability. Sometimes these things happen fast and sometimes people feel very privately about them. And the idea that this has to go to a committee is both a cause for delay and a huge lack of privacy for the women and the family involved.

So in Texas, oncologists have said they wait for pregnant women with cancer to get sicker before they treat them. Imagine being on the receiving end of that.

Some doctors have reported that they are unable to get other professionals to come and assist them with procedures because the other professionals are frightened of liability. And that, too, fouls up the ability of the patient to get care--even the forensic nurses who care for sexual assault victims.

So you are battered and you are raped, and the police respond and the EMTs respond, and they take you to the emergency room. There are forensic nurses who provide specified care for sexual assault victims. They do the rape kit. They know how to deal with patients who are still very traumatized. And they usually also provide morning after contraception, right?

The woman has been raped. Why would you not do that?

Now, they are anxious about doing that for fear that it will be considered an abortion drug.

That woman who has been through that experience deserves far better than to have politics intrude into her care on that terrible night. It is not just me saying this. An emergency physician in Houston who was the chair of the board of the American College of Emergency Physicians said:

We're no longer basing our judgment on the clinical needs of the woman, we're basing it on what we understand the legal situation to be.

The President of the American Medical Association says:

This is happening every day, all the time in these [freedom-burdened] states.

He says that ``some others have said that these are incredibly rare situations.'' He says: No, that is not true. ``This is happening every day, all the time in these states.''

I had a grim meeting with a group of OB-GYN doctors who practice in Rhode Island who are hearing from colleagues in States that have been burdened by this freedom being removed from women in those States, that their professional colleagues, fellow doctors, are beside themselves at the way this has interfered in their practice, particularly at those most dangerous time, when a pregnancy is in trouble and the woman needs the full attention of the doctor and the care that is determined based on her medical needs, not on something that some Republican legislature hobbled together.

So it is really important for us to get together and pass the Women's Health Protection Act. I want to thank all those who have shown so much leadership getting us to this day.