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With the Supreme Court considering a decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, lawmakers who support abortion rights are searching for ways to codify reproductive rights. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the highest-ranking female Democrat in the Senate and chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.
And speaking of Congress, back now to the national perspective on this issue. Let's turn to the highest ranking female Democrat in the senate. She's Patty Murray of Washington state. She's also the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Senator Murray, thank you so much for joining us. You said earlier today that if the Supreme Court comes forward with a decision, anything like what we have seen, it is a five-alarm fire. What did you mean by that?
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):
Well, Judy, I in all of my adult life, since I was in college, have lived in a land where Roe v. Wade was the law of the land. That ensured the people's privacy, that if you made a decision about whether or not to have a child, it was your decision along with your spouse or your partner. Your own — your own faith determined on what your doctor was telling you was right for you, your economic decision, your health decision.
And all of a sudden, we see that right being ripped away. And now we are going to have potentially a generation of women who will not have that right, even in the case of rape and incensed. That is going to change the economic and health dynamic for millions of women in this country, and I just am appalled.
And, Senator, we just heard Governor Lamont say he could look to Washington for some remedy here, but we know it was two months ago, the Senate failed to pass, a Democratic majority in the Senate, close, but still a majority, failed to pass a law that would codify women's rights to an abortion.
If you couldn't pass it then, how can you pass it now?
Well, obviously, what we are going to do next week is have a vote on this so everyone in the country knows where their senator stands. Who is your voice, what are they saying? So that when this — fall, we have elections, and people will have an opportunity to know where their elected official stands.
And I am calling for our country to wake up and say if you want to make sure that this is your decision, not a politician's decision, and when it's your health care at stake, it is your decision. When it's your economic family values are at stake, it's your decision.
Then you need to look at who you are voting on in the coming fall elections so that we can have a pro-choice, Democratic — even a pro-choice majority, Republican or Democrat. That we can have a pro-choice House, so that we can put in place a codification of Roe v. Wade so that is the law of the land and the Supreme Court cannot take it away from us.
It sounds like, Senator, you are saying that right now, what this would mean is, you said, so that voters would know where their senators stand. In other words, are you saying you accept the idea — you may not get it passed this year?
Well, we may not get it passed, but people need to know where their senators are right now. And I think this has all of a sudden become an issue of real to people. It wasn't a few weeks ago. It wasn't a year ago.
I think a lot of people thought, oh, this will never happen. Well, it is happening. And it is your body, your decision, and it's about to be taken away from you, and you need to make your voice heard.
Do you believe, Senator, that you and other Democrats might be willing to go along with a modified version of the legislation that was out before the Senate a couple months ago? Lisa Desjardins, my colleague was reporting that Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski are looking at an alternative version of this.
Well, that's two additional senators. That's great. But as everybody knows, right now, we need 60 senators. And again, what we are going to do is allow next week for everyone to put their voice on the line. Do you support the women's — a woman's right to make her own health care choices, or do you want politicians to make that choice? That vote will be in front of the Senate next week.
Senator, we often hear it said that even though the American people through public opinion polls show a majority are in favor of Roe versus Wade, our own, we've seen polling just in the last weeks and months that show that, still, it seems to be the antiabortion rights groups that are better organized, that seemed to get their people out. They seem to have a greater impact on the passage of legislation, state-by-state, getting people elected who agree with them.
I mean, what is your sense of why Democrats have not been able, frankly, politically to transform that public support into something that can bolster your view of lake — your view legislatively?
Well, I think, Judy, part of it is people felt that it wasn't a threat. This is something they have grown up, lived with, expected, known it has been thrown around by politicians, but never expected to be taken away. And that is now reality from millions of women in this country.
And do you think that — I mean, I hear you saying that you hope people get it now. But how do you plan to transform it if right now, you don't have the votes, how do you plan to change it?
Because, Judy, what we do know is there is an election this fall. And people will be able to go to the ballot box and decide who is going to be their voice and their vote on critical decisions like this and many other decisions.
And I believe very strongly that a lot of young people never expected this to be on the line for them. They just simply assumed that they would be able to get access to an abortion in case of rape or incest, or for personal decisions, a health care decision of their own. I don't think they expected this to take away.
And I think we all are now aware that this is just the first step. We have people here in the Senate, across the country, you've seen the laws that are already being placed — put in place in states across our country that also take away a woman's right to even have her own health care choices in terms of family planning. We are seeing people's right to be able to make health care choices when they are a victim of rape or incest.
This is an incredible intrusion in the people's lives, and I do think people are waking up, they realize it, and it will make a difference when they go to the polls. Something is really at stake, and that's your right to make your own health care decisions.
Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, thank you very much.
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