Jun 26, 2022
Vice President Harris on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade Transcript
Vice President Harris on the Supreme Court’s Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade. Read the transcript here.
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Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (00:03)
Good afternoon. Hello, Illinois. Hello, Plainfield. Thank you so much to our friends at the YMCA for hosting us. And thank all of you for being here to join me in welcoming the Vice President of the United States of America to Illinois’s 14th Congressional District.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (00:32)
I am so proud that the Vice President has chosen to come to our community to announce groundbreaking new federal commitments to end the maternal health crisis and empower women throughout all stages of pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum care.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (00:55)
In Illinois, empowering women is a closely held value, and it’s a value that we share with our Vice President. I have been so proud to see how she has continued to elevate the maternal health crisis as a priority as Vice President. There has never been an administration as dedicated to saving moms lives as the Biden-Harris administration, and we have Vice President Harris to take credit for that. Representation matters.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (01:33)
I’m glad to be joined by other leaders who have committed themselves to ending our nation’s maternal health crisis. Senator Dick Durbin, who, along with my esteemed colleague, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, made possible the year long expansion of postpartum Medicaid. And my former colleagues, Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Carol Johnson, and Undersecretary Gil Cisneros, who have long been valued partners in this work.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (02:10)
This is a room full of people dedicated to the mission of saving moms lives and ensuring every family can thrive. And yes, we are dedicated to protecting women’s fundamental freedoms to make decisions about their own bodies, their own lives, and their own futures. Reproductive freedom and maternal health are inextricably linked and today’s ruling ignores our stark reality that pregnancy in the US is deadlier than in any other high income country. We won’t stand by silently. We are taking action to ensure women and families have access to healthcare and the support that they need and deserve. That includes the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (03:23)
This maternal health crisis affects too many of us, women who live in cities, in suburbs, those with and without higher education degrees, those who have private health insurance coverage, and those who don’t. Too many of us have stories of loved ones who have experienced trauma and loss during what should have been one of the most joyous times of their lives. Congresswoman Alma Adams and I both recognize that the black maternal health crisis has touched far too many women and families and communities, and so we co-founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus in 2019, and together we wrote the Momnibus, a sweeping package of 12 bills to address the key drivers of maternal mortality. And I was so honored to partner with then Senator Kamala Harris to introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act in 2020.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (04:34)
The Momnibus invests in empowering women at every stage of pregnancy. And through this work we’ve made tremendous progress. Much of the legislation has already passed the House and one Momnibus bill was signed into law, and that one is to support pregnant and postpartum veterans. President Biden signed it in November of 2021.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (05:02)
We also secured new funding for the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline and funding to expand obstetric care in rural communities. The Biden-Harris administration shares our sense of urgency, and I’m so pleased about these important commitments being announced today.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (05:22)
These new administrative actions will improve maternal care in this country and give women in Illinois greater confidence that they will be seen and heard during pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period. They complement the progress we are building in Congress, progress that would not be possible without the leadership of Illinois’s distinguished senior Senator Dick Durbin.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (05:55)
Senator Durbin is the Senate Majority Leader. I’m sorry, the Senate Majority Whip, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the lead Senate sponsor of the critical maternal health legislation like the MOMMA’s Act, which would make sure that every state follows Illinois’ lead and extends postpartum Medicaid coverage to a full year.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood: (06:17)
Senator Durbin, thank you for all that you do to help Illinois moms, and all moms. It is now my honor to introduce Senator Dick Durbin.
Senator Dick Durbin: (06:39)
What a great Congresswoman Lauren Underwood is. She’s an amazing asset to the State of Illinois, but to the United States Congress as well. To have her background as a nurse, NIH researcher, and somebody who understood the battle for the Affordable Care Act in the United States Congress is invaluable at this moment. We’re lucky to have you Lauren, thank you for the kind words, and a nice introduction too.
Senator Dick Durbin: (07:09)
My favorite introduction occurred years ago, I was going to a summer feeding program for kids in Chicago schools, kids that ordinarily got school lunches. Well, during the summer, they offered them a real lunch as well. It’s probably the best meal they had. And I went to visit this with some television cameras to advertise it and promote it, and I looked around and there were tables full of kids and I thought, no politician will miss this opportunity, so I went over and sat down with some second and third graders and the television cameras followed me. And this one little girl looked at me and she said, “Who are you?” And I said, “I’m Dick Durban.” She said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a United States Senator.” And she said, “Well, good for you.”
Senator Dick Durbin: (07:59)
It’s a humbling experience to be in politics, but there are great moments, and this is one of them, to have the Vice President of the United States join us today. We had a little change in plans and I thank you for your patience and for being here at this moment. But during the course of the day, we had to make adjustment because of breaking news in Washington, which you’ve all heard something about I’m sure. But I also received some news on my own. It turns out that at the District 14 PS 129 graduation ceremony for the fourth grade in Brooklyn, New York, Ona Chambers, my granddaughter, won the top award for literacy. She’s the best reader in her class. I got that note today.
Senator Dick Durbin: (08:48)
And you know, I couldn’t help but think at the time, as I thought about little Ona, how she came to this world, it wasn’t an easy path. Her mom wanted to have children and she went through fertilization, in vitro fertilization, and we were all pulling for her. She tried twice and it didn’t work and we were just out ready to give up. I see some heads nodding in the audience, you know these stories well. But thank goodness it paid off, and thank goodness she and her brother Floyd came to this world and gave us so much joy.
Senator Dick Durbin: (09:26)
It was a decision made by my daughter and her husband and our family. It was the decision, which at that time was guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States. That guarantee ended this morning at 10:00 Eastern Time with the decision of the Supreme Court.
Senator Dick Durbin: (09:45)
I think it’s the wrong step in terms of the future of this country. The decision on whether or not a child should go forward, be born, whether a family should grow or at some point decide not to increase their number, is a very personal decision. It’s one that should be made by individuals. Until now, we have said under our constitution it’s a woman’s right, with her family, if she wishes, with her physician, to make this decision. We’ve lost some ground today when it comes to freedom in America. This is the first time that I know of in the history of the United States that we’ve taken away a Constitutional freedom., And it happened this morning in Washington.
Senator Dick Durbin: (10:28)
We have a battle that needs to be waged and the Vice President’s going to address it. In the meantime, whatever your feelings about that issue, as controversial as the issue of abortion may be, can we all agree that we want mothers to survive childbirth? Can we all agree that we live in a country now which is one of 13 countries in the world which has a higher maternal mortality rate today than it did 25 years ago? This is the United States of America. We’re better than that. We should be. We ought to be dedicated to making certain that mothers survive. I’m glad that Lauren Underwood and, of course, Robin Kelly, two Congresswomen in our delegation, are not only state leaders, but national leaders on the subject, and I thank everyone here who is interested in it.
Senator Dick Durbin: (11:18)
We have important things to do in Washington, and this is one of them, make sure that our public health system responds to the needs of families in the United States and across this whole nation. And we can get that done.
Senator Dick Durbin: (11:30)
Leading the charge in Washington, DC is a person I came to know very well. She and I served in the Senate together. She was on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I now chair. And I can remember she was sat in the last chair, so she had to sit patiently as 10 or 11 others asked questions, but we all waited for her because we knew it was worth the wait. Former Attorney General in the state of California, the first woman to ever be elected Vice President of the United States. Welcome to Plainfield, Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (12:30)
Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Well, first I want to thank Senator Durbin. I had the privilege of serving with him, as he mentioned, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I can tell you, Illinois, you are very, very well represented by Senator Dick Durbin. He is an extraordinary leader, a great fighter for all of America and in particular for the people of Illinois. So thank you Dick Durbin, and congratulations to your grandchild for her honor today as well.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (12:58)
I want to thank all the leaders for joining us today, and a special thank you, of course, to Lauren Underwood, where are you? Lauren, I have seen you when the cameras are on and when the cameras are off, she is always fighting for the people of her district. And all that you have done for our government, for the people of our country, and Plainfield, I thank you for that. I thank you for your partnership and your leadership.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (13:31)
As Senator Durbin mentioned, we traveled here today, in fact, they both joined me, along with the Secretary on Air Force Two, and we traveled here from DC today to talk with you about maternal health, which should be one of our highest priorities as a nation. And I had planned to speak about our strategy for improving care for pregnant women and mothers across our country. And as you know, on the way here, however, we learned that the United States Supreme court had rendered its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (14:10)
Here’s what that decision means. For nearly 50 years, we have talked about what Roe v. Wade protects. Today, as of right now, as of this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade protected. Past tense. This is a healthcare crisis because understand, millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they had this morning. Without access to the same healthcare or reproductive healthcare that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (15:19)
This is the first time in the history of our nation that a Constitutional right has been taken from the people of America. And what is that right, some might ask. It’s the right to privacy. Think about it as the right for each person to make intimate decisions about heart and home. Decisions about the right to start a family, including contraception, such as IUDs and the morning after pill. Decisions about whether to have a child, including, as Senator Durbin, mentioned through in vitro fertilization. Decisions to marry the person you love. Obergefell v. Hodges. Loving v. Virginia.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (16:35)
This opinion also says, when you read it, that abortion is not deeply rooted in our nation’s history. They offer that in the opinion as a foundation for the decision they rendered today.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (16:52)
In holding that, it is not deeply rooted in our history, today’s decision, on that theory, then, calls into question other rights that we thought were settled, such as the right to use birth control, the right to same sex marriage, the right to interracial marriage. The great aspiration of our nation has been to expand freedom, but the expansion of freedom clearly is not inevitable. It is not something that just happens. Not unless we defend our most fundamental principles. Not unless we elect leaders who stand up for those principles.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (18:05)
The strength of our nation has always been that we move forward. Today, I invite all people to stand together in defense of one of the most fundamental ideals and principles that for generations, for centuries, I believe, we have held dear, which is that fundamental principle about the importance of liberty. To stand for liberty, to stand for freedom, to stand for self-determination and for the right to privacy.
Vice President Kamala Harris: (18:49)
You have the power to elect leaders who will defend and protect your rights. And, as the president said earlier today, with your vote you can act, and you have the final word. So this is not over. God bless you. And God bless America.