Providing for Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 of Title United States Code, of the Rule Submitted By the Department of Veterans Affairs Relating to ``Reproductive Health Services''--motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Date: April 19, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. SMITH. Madam President.


Ms. SMITH. Madam President, I rise today in strong opposition to the resolution before us today. This resolution would overturn the VA's rule protecting veterans' access to abortion counseling and care in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of a woman or her health is in danger; and, unfortunately, it is just the latest attack on women's freedom to make their own healthcare decisions without interference from politicians.

Today, veterans, their spouses, and dependents are protected and have the freedom to receive essential healthcare in the most devastating of circumstances.

By voting yes today, the Senate would take that freedom away. So let's be clear about what this means. A ``yes'' vote means you would be saying to women who are entrusted to protect our national security that they can't be trusted to make their own medical decisions. You would be saying that the person who has been raped or the victim of incest should not have the freedom to get an abortion. You are saying, in effect, sitting in this Chamber that those of you sitting in this Chamber should have the power to decide what healthcare a veteran can receive if she faces a serious or even life-threatening health threat if she continues a pregnancy.

So if you are considering a ``yes'' vote, I ask you, what makes you think that you know better? What makes you think that you should have the power over another person and their body?

This is an insult to the dignity of people, to veterans, and to their families. These are people who have given so much; and yet this body would deprive them of their right to freedom and self-determination, the very rights that they sacrificed and fought to defend.

Colleagues, I understand that people have differing views on abortion. And I respect that. But I cannot understand why anyone would think that they should have the power to impose their own views on others in such extreme ways, because this resolution is extreme. And everyone who votes for it is saying that when it comes to our Nation's veterans who get their healthcare through the VA, that there should be no exceptions for abortion, even if that veteran has been the victim of rape or incest, even when continuing the pregnancy would endanger the veteran's life or health. That is not just extreme; that is cruel.

Here in this Chamber, some are also going after current servicemembers. There is currently an unprecedented and reckless campaign in this Chamber to hold up the promotions of career military personnel in order to force the Department of Defense to deprive servicemembers of their legal right to seek abortion care.

Let that sink in. They are willing to compromise our national security and leave 187 important military leadership posts vacant in order to enact their dangerous and unpopular anti-abortion agenda.

And they are not doing this because of what Americans want. It is the opposite, in fact. According to a Pew Research Center poll, over 60 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Before I was in the Senate, I worked at Planned Parenthood, and I saw there, firsthand, the capacity of people to make good decisions--moral decisions--for themselves and their families about how and when or if to start a family. So I ask my Republican colleagues to reject this extreme proposal. Ask yourself: Why do you think that you know better than these women, these veterans, whose lives and stories, whose health and family situations you will never know?

And I can tell you: For women, this is personal. They don't want any of us making these decisions about their bodies and their health and their families for them. They are perfectly capable of making these decisions for themselves. So I urge my colleagues to stand with our veterans and vote to protect their rights after they fought so hard to defend ours.