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Standing up for Women’s Reproductive Rights

Feb 25, 2016

U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke on the House floor in support of women's reproductive rights in the midst of the Supreme Court's impending case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.


Mr. Speaker, let me thank Congresswoman Watson Coleman and my Pro-Choice Caucus colleagues for inviting me to participate in this very timely and important conversation. 

As we await to hear the Supreme Court oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt next week, 

We must reflect on not only the serious implications of this particular case, but the attacks on choice across the country this past year. 

The case against Whole Woman’s Health threatens to take the number of clinics in Texas down from 19 to just 10 clinics for the 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas.

It will also set a legal precedent for years, maybe decades, to come and shape the continued debate on a woman’s right to choose.

Clearly, this unacceptable assault on women’s health places an undue burden on the women of Texas when accessing abortion and family planning services. 

I was proud to sign onto the Amicus brief with 162 Congressional colleagues in support of Whole Woman’s Health. 

This case in particular is a high profile and extreme example of the attacks that are becoming all too common place across the United States. 

While abortion still remains legal, in the years since Roe v. Wade, opponents of choice have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to chip away at a woman’s right to choose. 

This is despite the fact that abortions are at their lowest rates since Roe. 

Last year, we saw ideological attacks against Planned Parenthood from anti-choice activists attempting to mire the organization in scandal and force its closing. 

Those attacks stemmed from the illegally obtained and questionably edited so-called “sting” videos filmed by these same anti-choice activists. 

Unsurprisingly, Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing in every state that has conducted an investigation. 

And to top it off, a grand jury in Missouri has indicted those responsible for filming the videos. 

It goes to show this campaign against Planned Parenthood has been nothing less than a fraud. 

While I fundamentally support a woman’s right to choose, it’s important to point out that the clinics forced to close, in Texas and across the U.S., serve women in ways far beyond providing safe abortions. 

In many cases, especially for low-income and minority communities, these clinics serve as a primary healthcare provider. 

The services they provide include birth control, STD testing, cervical screenings, mammograms, counseling and health education. 

As the father of two daughters, the issue of reproductive rights is very personal for me. 

And, it’s crucial that we understand reproductive rights and choice is not a “women’s issue”.  It’s a civil rights issue. And, it’s an American issue. 

In the city of Chicago, which I represent, women have widespread access to reproductive health services. 

But, women in neighboring states like Indiana are often forced to cross state lines to find a clinic where she can have a safe abortion. 

This reality is unacceptable. Civil rights should not be dependent on your zip code. 

The decision in Whole Woman’s Health will ultimately hold national implications. 

As a man, I am proud to stand up for choice. 

And as a male Member of Congress, I take my responsibility to protect choice for women very seriously. 

Statistics show women’s economic output is dramatically impacted for the better when they determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies. 

When she is able to plan pregnancy, a woman is more likely to advance in education and the workforce.

Conversely, unplanned pregnancies too often force women to leave school and to delay or abandon career ambitions out right in order to care for children before they are ready and with limited support and resources. 

In order for our society to ever truly be equal, women must have control of their bodies and determine with their partner if and when they want to have children. 

Here in Congress, most of us were afforded the right to plan our families. Should we deny this right to the constituents we serve?

The futures of millions of young women depend on the decision to be handed down in cases like Whole Woman’s Health, 

And it is my sincere hope that the Court remains consistent in recognizing a woman’s right to privacy protects her right to make her own choices about her health. 

Thank you again and I yield back.