PHARMACEUTICAL MARKET ACCESS ACT
Mrs. CLINTON. Madam President, I rise to express my strong opposition to S. 3.
This Senate is poised to criminalize a medical decision made between a woman and her physician. Despite claims to the contrary, the legislation before us today will ban many abortions routinely conducted in the second trimester because the simple truth is that "partial-birth abortion" is a political term, not a medical one.
The conference report returned to us by the conferees is different from the legislation passed by the Senate back in March in one critical wayit is stripped of Senator HARKIN's amendment affirming the law of the landRoe v. Wade. This resolution made it clear that the policy of the Senate is for abortion to be legal, safe, and rare. And the conferees stripped out this language, making it clear that their true intent is to make abortion obsolete, regardless of the effects on women.
I remain perplexedas I was in Marchthat this has risen to the top of our priority list. Back in March, we were about to send our troops to battle in Iraq, we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month and long-term unemployment was climbing to the highest level in decades.
Well, the more things change the more they stay the same. Long-term unemployment is now at the highest level in 20 years.
The number of Americans falling into poverty has increased for 2 straight years after a decade of decline. Six hundred thousand more people are unemployed than they were in March, and we have lost more than 200 U.S. soldiers since the war began.
Yet, we have found time to ban what should be a private medical decision between a woman and her doctor.
We also have to complete the most basic work of Congressto pass the year's spending bills. At this point, we have considered Defense, Labor, HHS, Energy, Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch. But we still have left to consider Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-State, the District of Columbia, Foreign Operations, Transportation, and VA-HUD. We should bring these bills to the floor, debate them, modify them with amendments and then send them to conference. As we get closer and closer to our target adjournment date, I have to wonder why on earth we are not going full speed ahead to bring these bills to the floor?
We also have a Medicare prescription drug bill pending in conference. This is an issue that all of us hear about every time we go home. It is one of the most important issues to the American publicand has been so for years.
With so much uncertainty here at home, the Republican leadership has made the choice to debate how best to criminalize a medical procedure for women.
I have to ask myself: Why was this moment chosen for this debate? Why aren't we debating the steps we could take to help the 8.4 million Americans who are out of work? Why aren't we debating how we can balance our Federal budget and begin to diminish these overwhelming deficits and this increasing debt load we will leave on the backs of our children? Why are we not debating the necessity of our paying our bills? Why are we not debating how to provide an affordable, meaningful prescription drug benefit for elder Americans? Why aren't we debating how to help the 34 million Americans living in poverty?
As I travel around, talking with people in my State, that is what they talk to me about: What about this war, Senator CLINTON? What about homeland security? Are we as safe as we need to be here at home? Senator, what can we do about the jobs that are disappearing in the stagnant economy? How on Earth can we deal with this overwhelming budget deficit?
What about not funding No Child Left Behind and the burdens that are begin put on public education as a result? When are we going to get around to a prescription drug benefit for our seniors who are suffering and having to face these large bills? What are we doing to protect our environment? We are, after all, stewards of our natural environment for future generations.
Those are the questions I am being asked. Not the ones posed by this legislation before us today.
But nevertheless we are considering this bill and little doubt that it will be approved. So, let us be very clear on what it is we are about to pass. The way this bill is written, the choice of language eliminates the distinction of trimesters. The vagueness makes this bill applicable to many other procedures in addition to the ones explicitly named. This bill is extreme, deceptive, and unconstitutional.
As my colleague from Pennsylvania stated back in March: This is the beginning of the end. And that is absolutely what he means. If this bill passes, it is the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade. It is the beginning of the end of the right of women in this country to make the most personal and intimate decisions that any of us would ever be called upon to make.
Why did we ever have to do Roe v. Wade to begin with? Some States like mine, let abortion, as long as it was done safely and legally, occur under certain circumstances before Roe. Why did we have to have a Supreme Court decision? We have to have it because in many parts of the country these kinds of decisions were not permitted to be made by individual women.
Look at the progress we have made. The U.S. abortion rate is now at the lowest level it has been since 1974. When I was First Lady, I helped to launch the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. We increased education and public awareness. And since 1991, teen pregnancy has also declined. We learned that prevention and education, teaching people to make good decisions, really did work. But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about those few rare cases.
We are talking about those few rare cases when a doctor had to look across a desk at a woman and say, "I hate to tell you this, but the baby you wanted, the baby you care so much about, that you are carrying, has a terrible abnormality."
I have to ask myself, why do we, as government officials, expect we can make these decisions? We know that people of
means will always be able to get any health care procedure they deem necessary. That is the way it was before Roe v. Wade. That is the way it will be after this passes the Senate.
We are facing a moment of historic importance, but not about what we should be debating at this time in our history. I only wish this legislation were not before us. But now that it is, we have to educate the American public.
I will end by referring again to the young woman, Mrs. Eisen, who was in my office back in March. She is about 25 years younger than I am. She said: I had no idea that the decision I made with my husband and my doctor to deal with this genetic abnormality was something I could have never had under the laws of where I lived before. And that if this passes, it will become illegal in the future.
I said: Well, you didn't have to think about that. That was something that, thankfully, we took off the national agenda. But there are those who, from very deeply held beliefs, which I respect, would wish to substitute the Government's decision for what should be a difficult, painful, intimate, personal decision.
This bill is not only ill-advised, it is also unconstitional. I understand what the other side wants to do. They are hoping to get somebody new on the Supreme Court and to turn the clock back completely, to overrule Roe v. Wade.
Is this bill really about what the sponsors say, or is it, as they candidly admit, the beginning of the endto go back in this country to back-alley abortions, to women dying from botched, illegal procedures? I think you can draw your own conclusions.
It is up to the American public to determine whether they want medical decisions being criminalized by this Senate.