Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter speech on FARM act of 2013

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Representative Louise McIntosh Slaughter speech on FARM act of 2013

HON. Louise McIntosh Slaughter


June 18, 2013

Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady for yielding me the customary 30 minutes and yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, for 40 years I've been marching for this women's choice bill, but we seem never to finish with it. It's something that people like to drag up and bring out.

In that regard, I want to ask the women of America to think of two things. First, I want you to remember the panel that Chairman Issa put together last year to discuss contraception and whether or not women should have access to it. If you recall, that panel was made up entirely of men. There was a young woman, a graduate of law school, who wanted to speak that day; but she was found to be unworthy, unable to speak. Indeed, her virtue, her character, everything else about her was assailed because she had tried to do what many of us know we can do here, and that is speak.

Think about another thing now. Think about the Judiciary Committee; 22--now 23--all white guys turning down every amendment to try to preserve women's health, to try to preserve women's psyche, and do anything in the world to do this--and to try to discuss that this bill, as my colleague vainly tried to do, that this is unconstitutional. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows the Senate's not going to take this up. This is purely window dressing.

And as I do here often, I want to remind everybody that it costs $24 million a week to run the House of Representatives. We've spent over $54 billion almost already now just trying to repeal the health care bill.

When in the world are we going to get to work? 2\1/2\ weeks from now, the interest rate on college loans will double. Are we doing anything about that? Not a thing on Earth. Do we care about the people who are out of work? Do we care about the people who are facing loss of their food stamps? No. We care more about war on women. Women of America, keep those two panels before your mind forever. Those are the deciders--the men on Issa's panel, the men on the Judiciary Committee.

Now, in State Houses all over this country, and in Governors' mansions and Halls of Congress, the majority's antichoice agenda is driven by men in blue suits and red ties who seem to believe that once they get elected to something, they have a right to play doctor. I would like to think about what they have done over the last years to remind my fellow American women.

Already, because of the majority's efforts, women in eight States are required to undergo an ultrasound before they can exercise their constitutionally protected right to a safe and legal abortion--an ultrasound that is not medically necessary, an ultrasound that is medically contradicted, and an ultrasound for which they are required themselves to pay. As we speak, the legislators in the State of Wisconsin have passed a similar measure through the State House and are awaiting the enactment into law.

Most telling is right now more States have a waiting period for abortions than a waiting period to buy a gun. Let me say that again. More States have a waiting period for abortions--a constitutionally protected procedure--than have a waiting period to buy a gun.

Now, here in Congress, the majority conducted a hearing at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year that I have already spoken of. There were five men and zero women. As you know, they talked about Sandra Fluke and all the vituperation and hatred that was poured down on her because she wanted to speak.

But just last week--I think this past week--the majority took it a whole lot further. For the first time, during the committee, after it was all passed and gone, before it goes to the Rules Committee, the sponsor of this bill made one of those comments like Todd Akin had made. And I think if you scratch an awful lot of guys on that committee, they all feel the same way because it keeps coming up over and over. You can't get pregnant, they say, if you're raped. They believe that in the bottom of their heart, and some of them were doctors. But during the committee amendments to include the exceptions for the health of the mother and victims of rape and incest, they were rejected along party lines.

Mr. Franks has been taken off the bill, and for the first time, in my recollection, unanimous consent has to be given here to ask a woman-- they have found a Republican woman who would take this bill--off a completely other committee and allow her to manage the bill. If that is not a first, I don't know what is. And if that is not PR, I don't know what is. And if that is not simply trying to fool you, I don't know what else that is.

As Mr. Franks' remark and the extreme nature of his bill became clear, they realized they were about to anger the American women even more than they had last fall, and you know how that turned out at the election. Instead of abandoning the legislation and respecting a woman's right to choose, they decided to try to make changes to the underlying bill, after it had already passed through committee, and assign a woman outside the committee to manage a bill on the floor.

Such a cowardly move is an insult to the intelligence of women in America. You are supposed to believe this was all done well and properly. No amount of window dressing is going to change the fact that you are severely trying to restrict a woman's right to choose with today's bill. I don't think anybody makes any bones about that.

The majority has argued the legislation is in response to new science, even though if there has ever been a House of Representatives that cared not a whit for science, I can't imagine they would come even close to this one. When a fetus feels pain is the new idea. As my colleague, Mr. Nadler, has previously made clear, their so-called ``new findings are nothing more than the marginal views that fly in the face of established science. In fact, one of the experts upon which the majority relies has testified that science for and against fetal pain is most uncertain.

The fact of the matter is that today's legislation is unconstitutional and contains a narrow and adequate exception for the life of a woman and a victim of rape and incest. No man on any of those committees, no man on any of those panels, is ever going to have to face that problem himself of rape and incest. How strange it is that they know the precise answer for people who are victimized by it.

Many serious health conditions actually materialize or worsen after the 20-week mark in a pregnancy and can seriously compromise the health of the mother. A physician has to be able to provide the best care for their patients; and in cases where a woman's health is exacerbated by pregnancy, politicians have no right in intruding in the doctor-patient relationship and criminalizing those trying to protect their patients' lives and safety.

Furthermore, the majority's requirement that a victim of rape or incest report the crime to authorities before receiving an abortion effectively prevents many victims from exercising the right to choose. More than half of all rape victims, as we know, don't report, and that is a sad thing.

The requirement in today's bill ensures that a woman who has been a victim of rape or incest faces massive barriers to exercising her right to safe and legal reproductive health care. Mr. Speaker, from requiring women to undergo mandatory ultrasounds to applying police reporting requirements for victims of rape, the majority has made it very clear that they don't trust women. In fact, it came up at the Judiciary Committee that one of the reasons they needed to report it to police is because women would lie. I think they make an exception in that case for their sisters, their daughters, their mothers, perhaps. It is just the rest of us who can't be trusted.

Try as he might, no man will ever understand the choice that faces a young woman who is told that she suffers from severe valvular heart disease and that, if she carries a child to term, her life and the life of that child are at risk, or the choice of a woman who is violently raped and would be reminded of the crime against her every moment of every day if she is forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

I urge my colleagues to respect the established science on this issue and the constitutional right of every American woman. Reject today's rule and the underlying legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).