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Senator Maria Cantwell Statement on 30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Location: Washington, DC

January 22, 2003

Senator Maria Cantwell Statement on 30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Thirty years ago, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court held that women have a constitutional right to an abortion. That decision - Roe v. Wade - was carefully crafted to be both balanced and responsible while holding the rights of women in America paramount in reproductive decisions. Roe v. Wade held that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, but after viability, states can ban abortions as long as they allow exceptions when a woman's life or health is endangered. Since then, while the Court has consistently ruled in favor of this right, there is no doubt that this right is being eroded.

And today, the thirtieth anniversary of that landmark decision, I especially want to thank those who are continuing to provide safe and legal reproductive health care to the women of our community. In the face of crippling challenges, especially violence and threats of violence, these health care workers have held fast in their commitment to provide the quality health care that all women deserve.

Like most Americans, I believe that we must work to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through education and family planning. But I also believe that our Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy, and that this constitutional right encompasses the decision of whether to terminate a pregnancy.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a concerted effort by those who seek to overturn this right to stack our courts with ideological conservatives who seek not only to weaken the right to make personal decisions about one's own body, but also to make exercising that right a criminal offense. As a Senator, I take my responsibility to advise and consent on nominees to the federal judiciary extremely seriously. While I recognize the privilege of the President to select his nominees, I believe it is critical that we conduct a comprehensive evaluation of each nominee, since, unlike members of the President's cabinet and other executive branch appointees, federal judges receive lifetime appointments, and are expected to interpret our nation's laws in a fair and balanced manner.

I am especially concerned that President Bush has chosen to renominate several extremists on this issue, especially Priscilla Owen. Her record demonstrates that, as a member of the strongly conservative Texas Supreme Court, she was an activist judge, interpreting the law to fit her ideological ends. Indeed, while President Bush's current White House Counsel was serving on the Texas Supreme Court, then-Justice Alberto Gonzales called one of her rulings "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

Many of my colleagues and I spend much of our time—and must continue to do so—defending the actual right to have an abortion. But in my mind, the easiest way to reduce the number of abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. And I simply don't understand why so many anti-choice members don't understand that connection.

Studies show that the use of family planning reduces the probability of a woman having an abortion by 85 percent. Unfortunately, the U.S. still has three million unintended pregnancies each year in the United States, half of which end in abortion. This is why I support the Equity in Prescription Contraceptive Coverage Act, authored by Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, and why I will be cosponsoring that bill when she reintroduces it.

Mr. President, the women in the Senate are in a unique position to fight against the erosion of Roe. I stand with them today to honor those who came before me in fighting for this right. Together we will continue to make sure that the women of America have the right to privacy, and the fundamental freedom of choice in our lives.
Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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