WASHINGTON – In a passionate speech on the House floor, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’ Abortion Rights and Access Taskforce and co-lead of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), slammed the white supremacist history of the anti-abortion movement and implored the Senate to stand on the right side of history by passing WHPA and codifying the right to abortion care into law.
The Congresswoman’s speech comes ahead of the Senate’s vote on WHPA later today. The full transcript of Pressley’s remarks is below:
I rise today in solidarity with the one in four women across this country who have had an abortion and every person who will ever seek abortion care.
Your neighbor, co-worker, family member, those whom you work with and yes, those whom you worship with too.
The mother of three working double shifts to make ends meet, who just cannot manage the physical demands of another pregnancy.
The student who made the decision to finish their degree and begin their family on their own terms.
No shame, no stigma, no regrets.
The young parents who received the heart-wrenching news that they have miscarried and will need abortion care immediately.
I rise today to proclaim, I see you. I love you and I stand with you.
Carry no shame for your health care choice. The only shame is that there are forces at work to deny you it.
And while my heart is heavy, my spirit is resolved and determined.
Madam Speaker, there are many who have arrived at this moment with newfound outrage at the prospect of this reversal of law.
But many of us have been in the trenches of this fight for a long time and we are not surprised.
Reproductive justice organizers—Black, brown, Indigenous, disabled and LGBTQ+ folks have been sounding the alarm.
Raising their voices, putting our bodies on the line in protest as anti-choice lawmakers across the country wage a full-fledged assault on our reproductive rights and freedom.
For too long, the right to control our own bodies, the right to determine our own fate, the right to decide if and when we have a child has been up for debate in the halls of power.
Madam Speaker, we have been called hysterical. We have been called fear-mongers.
And when I talk about who will disproportionately bear the brunt of this, we have been called race-baiters.
This is no drill, and I take no joy in saying “I told you so.”
I have stood on the steps of City Hall in Boston. I have organized on the Boston Common.
I have stood at the State House in Boston, and I have stood on the steps of the Supreme Court chanting, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free. Liberate abortion.”
Madam Speaker, colleagues, nobody is free until everybody is free.
SCOTUS has offered empty words in their leaked draft ruling and then threw up barricades and fences, knowing full well that the majority of people who call this nation home vehemently disagree.
SCOTUS claims that our human rights are invalidated by their opinions of what is and isn’t rooted in our nation’s “history and traditions.”
A quick history lesson:
Our nation’s history and traditions denied my very personhood.
Our nation’s history and traditions bought and sold my ancestors.
Our nation’s history and traditions exploited the bodies of people who look like me.
Our full humanity, our bodily autonomy and our collective liberation hang in the balance.
Madam Speaker, the court fails to live up to its ideals and its purpose.
The idea of equal justice under the law has been a rallying cry but not a reality for many.
The anti-abortion movement in America is rooted in organized white supremacy, and overturning Roe v. Wade would only perpetuate cycles of poverty and trap our most vulnerable in systems of oppression.
None of this is abstract. There is a history of medical apartheid in this this country against Black, brown, immigrant, indigenous and disabled folks.
And right now we find ourselves living in a Black maternal morbidity crisis where Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. To die.
And we have suffered a history of forced sterilization and experimentation on Black, brown, and disabled bodies without our consent.
And now, the systemic prospect of folks being forced to carry a pregnancy against their will. Forced birth.
In the same country where we deprive families with universal health care, child care and paid medical and family leave.
Abortion bans would put legal, safe, necessary abortion care out of reach for millions, especially our most vulnerable.
So, Congress must act.
This Democratic controlled House, Senate and White House—the “majority”—must mean more than a talking point and we must legislate as if lives depend on it, because they do.
To my Senate colleagues on the other side of this Capitol building, I ask of you—no, I demand—that you act.
We have the voice. We have the power. We have a mandate. It is time for action.
Anything else is insufficient.
Abolish the Jim Crow filibuster. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which I am a proud original co-sponsor of.
Enshrine the fundamental, human right to abortion care in federal law, once and for all.
I cannot stomach one more lecture about the preservation of civil liberties when you seek to deny me the very freedom and agency over my own body.
Nobody is free until everybody is free.
Thank you and I yield.
In June, Congresswoman Pressley, along with U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. Last week, she issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In September, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.
As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to repeal the Hyde Amendment and protect comprehensive reproductive health care for all, including abortion care.
Over the course of her first term serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has filed amendments every year to repeal Hyde from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July published a Medium post on the importance of doing so.
In April, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians.
In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade. In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription.
In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.