House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by pro-choice members of Congress and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday to denounce HR 7, the anti-choice bill passed by House Republicans on Tuesday, just hours before President Barack Obama arrived at the Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union message. The president made no mention of the bill, or of the legislative assault on women’s rights, during his hour-long speech, instead focusing on the pay disparity between men and women, which he called “an embarrassment.”
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus and ranking member on the House Committee on Rules, opened the press conference by citing a recent poll that shows 70 percent of Americans say they don’t want to see Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, overturned. “I have been in this fight for 40 years; imagine that,” Slaughter said. She also noted that she believes access to abortion is not an issue that belongs before any legislature, especially not to be decided, she said, “by men in blue suits and red ties.”
As did most of the speakers who followed her, Slaughter noted what she said was the false premise on which the bill was predicated: that taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for abortions, a prohibition currently enforced, and enforced for decades, under the Hyde Amendment and related amendments. Given the legislation’s imminent death in the Senate, Slaughter said, Tuesday’s vote was about as purposeful as “voting 49 times to kill [the Affordable Care Act]” after it had passed into law.
“It’s just a fake front issue to talk about abortion,” Pelosi added. “What they’re really talking about is contraception, family planning, the judgment of women.”
“So this is the heart of it: The president talked about the future, and they want to take us back,” she continued. “We’re not going there.”
Boxer next took the podium, invited as the author of the compromise language included in the Affordable Care Act that made explicit in the health-care reform law that federal money would not be used for the purchase of abortion coverage, language that was shown to attendees in a poster-sized copy of that page of the law that was placed next to the podium on an easel. HR 7, Boxer said, is an “extreme bill” with a “grossly dishonest title”: the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”
“I find it reprehensible that House Republicans are now trying to create a phony controversy,” Boxer said. “
It’s very clear what their bill is about: eliminating coverage for abortion in the health-care exchanges, not even allowing to use their own personal funds to pay for that coverage, which is a legal procedure.”
“It’s been quite a week for the Republicans, who claim that the Republican Party is not waging a ‘war on women,'” Boxer said. She went on to enumerate the “several new fronts” she said had been opened over the course of the week leading up to the State of the Union speech, including former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s comments to the effect that American women wouldn’t need a birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act if they could only control their libidos, and the contention of Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) that wives should “voluntarily submit” to their husbands. “Now, as someone who’s been married 52 years …
I can say that submission on either side is not part of a successful [marriage],” Boxer said, noting that Tuesday was her wedding anniversary.
“So, I have a question for the Republicans,” said Boxer. “What century are you living in?”
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, opened her speech noting a long list of groups that had collaborated to oppose HR 7, in order to demonstrate, she said, that “this is a rising movement.”
Hogue was defiant when talking about the bill, and the other “fronts” cited by Boxer.
“I want them to put their cards on the table,” Hogue said. “I want former Gov. Huckabee to keep talking. I want them to pass the kind of resolutions that they pass at the RNC, and demand that their candidates make this issue front and center. You know why? Because when they try and fight this battle out in the open, they lose it. The American people are not on their side. It’s when they hide it that we’ve got to be worried.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), who was seated in a 2009 special election, expressed incredulity at the opposition to science he found among the Republicans, noting that one of the things that most excited him when he first arrived in the Capitol was the access he was assured of, by his colleague Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), “to the world’s greatest minds.” Nobel laureates, he was told, would be available to advise him.
When Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), took the podium, she listed the things she said Republicans oppose, abortion and contraception among them. “What are they for?” she asked, rhetorically.
“Submission,” Slaughter quipped.
After the press conference, RH Reality Check caught up with Schakowsky, asking her if she was disappointed that President Barack Obama failed to mention the Republicans’ passage of the anti-choice bill on Tuesday, or the broader GOP assault on women’s health care, especially heading into the 2014 midterm election campaign.
“No,” Schakowsky replied, noting that one of the biggest applause lines of the president’s speech was this: “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
“I think the message was very clear,” she continued. “I think it was very inspiring for women. We’re the party of women; that was the message last night.”