This piece is a modification version of Committee on Oversight Reform Acting Chair Carolyn B. Maloney’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, from last week’s hearing on “Examining State Efforts to Undermine Access to Reproductive Health Care.”
Across the country, extreme forces in some state governments are taking draconian steps to violate women’s rights by restricting access to reproductive health services—including abortion. These state actions include prerequisite undue burdens, restrictions and outrageously invasive procedures for patients seeking abortions.
Let me be clear about what these restrictions are: they are a denial of basic healthcare services that women have a right to receive—no matter where they live.
Missouri has taken some of the most extreme actions to limit access to reproductive health care. Missouri is one of six states with only one remaining abortion provider, and it is at risk of having no providers at all. The state has one remaining clinic, a local Planned Parenthood.
Earlier this year, Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri state health department, ordered Planned Parenthood to perform medically unnecessary pelvic examinations on every single woman seeking an abortion. This was an invasive state-sponsored abuse of women seeking care. After significant public backlash, the state suspended this cruel practice.
Dr. Williams also recently was forced to admit that he directed state employees to collect information about patients’ menstrual cycles to advance his ideological crusade. That is what they were spending taxpayer dollars on.
I cannot begin to describe my disgust at these violations of privacy and breaches of trust by government officials. Sadly, Missouri’s actions are not taking place in isolation; other states have pushed for similar restrictions. I believe these states have been emboldened by the Trump Administration’s systemic attacks on reproductive health care and general disrespect for women.
In 2012, former Committee on Oversight Reform Chair Darrell Issa held a hearing with an all-male panel of religious leaders who were trying to take away contraceptive coverage for women. They did not invite a single woman to testify on that panel. Then, they refused our requests to have Sandra Fluke, who was a Georgetown Law School student at the time, testify about the importance of health insurance coverage of contraceptives. They said she was “not qualified.”
It was at that hearing that I asked in protest: “Where are the women?”
It is time to let women speak, and it is time for everyone to listen. It is time for the elected representatives in Congress, and in state houses across the country, to protect the right to privacy and a woman’s right to abortion services—rather than attack it, undermine it and try to eliminate it.