Padilla Highlights Ongoing Attacks on Reproductive Rights and Freedoms After Dobbs Decision
“When activist judges take it upon themselves to overstep… it leaves science no longer to just the scientists.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) questioned witnesses about the ongoing attacks on reproductive health care access during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America.” During the hearing, Padilla spoke with Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB/GYN and abortion care provider based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who faced life-threatening complications when she was denied access to an abortion.
In his opening remarks, Padilla sounded the alarm about the unprecedented rulings of the far-right Supreme Court majority and highlighted how its actions have undermined our institutions and rolled back our fundamental rights and freedoms. He then recommitted to working to ensure that Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, passes legislation to protect the rights and protections Americans hold dear.
Padilla underscored that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not the courts, is the agency that Congress tasked with making science-based decisions related to our health and safety—including for abortion medication. He reiterated that science should be left to scientists and followed up by asking Dr. Verma to speak to the risks of having judges make decisions about medications Americans rely on for their health. Dr. Verma responded that in allowing the Courts to decide what medication is approved, we limit a patient’s ability to get the care that they need, including care for people who need abortions or miscarriage management.
He then spoke to Ms. Zurawski about the impacts to mental and physical health that are associated with being denied abortion access even when facing life-threatening complications. Ms. Zurawski provided her compelling story and spoke to her experience with trauma and depression that have ensued in the eight months since the development of her health complications, resulting from the initial denial and delay of abortion care.
- PADILLA: As we discuss the efforts we’ve undertaken to ensure a woman’s right to abortion care, it’s not lost on me that this fight is actually larger than abortion care alone, as we work to address the unprecedented actions taken by the far right wing of the Supreme Court, it’s not lost on us that as they’re working to strip away basic rights, they’re also failing to hold themselves accountable for some common sense, ethical standards. […] One troubling aspect of the recent Fifth Circuit decision, which many scholars and even fellow judges found legally unsound was its attempt to intrude on a decade’s old public safety driven decision by the FDA. […] When the FDA tests and approves a medication for use, people rely on that they have trust in the testing and approval process. And so when activist judges take it upon themselves to overstep the separation of powers, and a truth on the FDA’s decision making authority, the authority entrusted in it by Congress, it leaves science no longer to just the scientists. […] I don’t want justices making scientific decisions, unless they have that education expertise. Doctor Verma, simple yes or no question: Is regulated medical abortion in the United States safe? (VERMA: Yes, absolutely.) So can you describe them the risks to patients, when judges rather than scientists are making decisions about medicines that Americans rely on?
- DR. VERMA: By regulating a medication or taking a medication off the market that we know is safe and effective, we limit patient’s ability to get the care that they need. That includes care for people that need abortions and for miscarriage management. Mifepristone is used very safely and effectively for management of miscarriages and shortens the amount of time it takes someone to pass a pregnancy. A lot of people experiencing miscarriages are already going through a traumatic event. And so to be able to offer them the most effective treatment option is incredibly important.
- PADILLA: Some people in the legal world say, well, if there’s a conflict between state and federal level, there’s a process for hashing that out through the courts. That takes a long time. In the meantime, we have women showing up in hospitals and emergency rooms that can’t afford to wait. […] Just wondering if you could take a minute to share what kind of mental anguish that experience was like, while you were in the ICU and since then, and if you have a specific message for women living in states that are denied abortion care or access to the care that they need, but live in a state that clamping down on access and options for them.
- ZURAWSKI: We’ve heard a lot today about the mental trauma and the negative harmful effects on a person’s psychological well-being after they have an abortion, supposedly, and I’m curious why that’s not relevant for me as well, because I wasn’t permitted to have an abortion and the trauma and the PTSD and the depression that I have dealt with, in the eight months since this happened to me, is paralyzing. […] I am one of many. And quite frankly, I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I have a husband that could take me to the hospital, I don’t have other children that I had to worry about finding health care for. I have a job that was understanding, that allowed me to grieve for three days as I waited to almost die. What about all of the women that don’t have those same opportunities, that don’t have access to health care, that don’t have health insurance, that don’t have a partner? What about them?
Senator Padilla believes in a woman’s fundamental right to make her own health care decisions, and is a staunch advocate for reproductive rights. As a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, Senator Padilla is fighting to protect access to abortion services throughout the United States. While Republican-led state legislatures work to strip away reproductive rights, he’s also fighting to protect a patient’s right to travel freely between states to access abortion care.
More information about the hearing is available here.