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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript: Women's Health


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Well, joining us now is Senator Tammy Baldwin. She is coauthor of the Women`s Health Protection Act.

Senator Baldwin, appreciate you taking a few minutes tonight. So let me ask you about the proposal. Obviously, you know, we`ve seen the headlines in recent years about an initiative in this state, an initiative in that state.

So specifically, what are the laws, what are the restrictions, what are the things you are trying to undo with this bill?

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WIS.: Well, it`s been incredible to watch what the states have done just in recent years. In the last three years alone, over 200 laws have been passed that are serving to restrict women`s access to full reproductive care, to abortion services and other services and these laws do nothing to further a woman`s health or safety.

And so the measure that we`ve introduced, the Women`s Health Protection Act, would basically say that if the underlying law has nothing to do to further women`s health, women`s safety, it`s presumed invalid, because this is a constitutional right that we`re talking about.

And as we have in the past, it is Congress` role to protect those fundamental constitutional rights when states are enacting legislation intended to interfere with them. And so this is just a critical function of Congress and something that`s screaming for attention right now across this country.

KORNACKI: So -- and I certainly take the point that the intent behind a lot of these laws, these are laws drawn up by people who oppose abortion, who are looking for ways to limit it, to restrict it, to outlaw it in some cases. I certainly take that point.

But when you talk about basically banning laws that don`t have a purpose of furthering, I think you said they`re furthering women`s health and safety, how do you draw that line?

Because, for instance, I know some of these laws require that doctors who perform the procedures have admitting privileges at local hospitals. And you can certainly make the argument, right, that, you know, all things being equal, wouldn`t it be better to have a doctor who has admitting privileges at the local hospital?

Where do you draw that line exactly?

BALDWIN: Well, first of all, I don`t think you can make that argument and we`re seeing in federal courts those cases go on trial and judges concluding that it is absolutely unnecessary.

And in fact, I have a lot of firsthand exposure to this issue because Wisconsin recently passed such a law. It was admitting privileges combined with an invasive ultrasound procedure that was required of anyone seeking abortion care. And a federal judge has put a stay on this during the pendency of a trial, but it really doesn`t.

But in terms of the precedent for this, I mean, think about the Voting Rights Act around which this Women`s Health Protection Act was modeled. The idea is a fundamental constitutional right at stake here, in this case, as decided in the Roe versus Wade case by our highest court.

And states are trying to whittle this away. The law that I`m talking about in Wisconsin would have closed half the clinics in the state.

KORNACKI: So let me ask you from this direction, though, when you look at all the laws that have been passed, are there any that would meet your criteria?

Are there laws that have been passed that you say do further the health limit, do advance the health of women and, therefore, would be OK?

BALDWIN: I certainly think there are and those all conform to and are consistent with the Roe versus Wade decision.

But one of the things you`ll find in this debate in particular is that rather than passing laws that apply to all medical procedures of similar complexity, et cetera, they target this.

And in these hundreds of laws that have passed in recent years there, it seems for almost the sole intent of restricting access, in many cases resulting in the closure of clinics, we have states where there are, you know, 95 percent of the counties, including my own, where there is no reproductive health services of any -- available.

And this is clearly the intent of these laws. And it is Congress` role to step forward and protect constitutional rights. And that`s what we`ve done through this bill.

KORNACKI: All right. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, really appreciate the time tonight. Thank you for that.

BALDWIN: Thank you.


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