[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 27 (Friday, February 17, 2012)]
[Pages S882-S885]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                          WOMEN'S HEALTH CARE

  Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President I come to the floor today with a number 
of my women Senate colleagues to talk about what happened yesterday at 
the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. They held a 
hearing on the administration's decision to

[[Page S883]]

make sure that women have access to affordable contraception, but guess 
who was missing. The women. This is a picture of the first panel from 
yesterday's hearing. Not one woman was seated at this table, not one 
woman at the table, yet the topic was women's health.
  What is more difficult to understand is that when female members of 
the House committee asked for a woman to testify along with the men, 
they were denied. Their request was simple: to allow Sandra Fluke, a 
Georgetown Law School student, to testify on this panel of all men. As 
a woman she could speak firsthand about how this rule would impact 
women. But their request was denied because the chairman said Sandra 
Fluke was unqualified.
  How can a woman be unqualified to talk about women's health care? Yet 
every one of these men on the panel was deemed to be qualified to talk 
about women's health care. I am disappointed. I know it is a 
disappointment that is shared by millions of women across this country. 
I am saddened that here we are, in 2012, and a House committee would 
hold a hearing on women's health and deny women the ability to share 
their perspective.
  Time and time again, women have been silenced in this discussion, a 
discussion about our own very personal health care decisions. In fact, 
a recent analysis of the leading cable news channels showed that almost 
twice as many men as women were invited to join the conversation.
  I think it is critical to understand that the underlying issue here 
is about affordable access to contraception--something that is basic to 
women's health. Birth control is something that most women use at some 
point in their lifetime and something that the medical community 
believes is essential to the health of women and their families. 
Research shows that access to birth control is directly linked to 
declines in maternal and infant mortality, that it can reduce the risk 
of ovarian cancer, and that it is linked to overall good health 
  Some women, 14 percent of them, use birth control not as 
contraceptives but to treat serious medical conditions. That is about 
1.5 million women.
  When the administration first announced its decision to require 
employers to offer health insurance coverage for contraception, there 
was a robust conversation about religious liberty. In response to that, 
the President modified his decision last week, preserving the religious 
liberty of those religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals 
or universities, but also protecting the women who work for them. His 
decision ensured that all women have access to contraceptive coverage, 
and if a woman's employer has a religious objection, women can get that 
critical coverage directly from their health plans.
  The Catholic Health Association has supported this policy, and yet, 
as we saw yesterday, some attempt to continue to politicize this issue. 
We cannot lose sight that this is at the most fundamental level of 
debate about women's preventive health.
  Women deserve a voice in this debate because, after all, in the end 
this is about our health and it is about a health care decision that is 
between women, their families, their doctors, and their own faith.
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from New Hampshire.
  For millions of American women, reading the news this morning was 
like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years, seeing the 
headlines and the photos of this all-male panel in the House talking 
about a woman's right to access birth control, and no women on the 
panel. It turns out the chairman of the House oversight committee 
decided he was not going to allow a young woman who had been asked by 
the minority to testify and tell her story--actually of a friend who 
had lost an ovary because of her lack of contraception coverage. So 
this 19-year-old woman was left to watch, like the rest of us, as all 
five men addressed the committee about how they supported efforts to 
restrict access to care.
  I am sure by now many of my colleagues here have seen this picture of 
this all-male panel, the picture that says a thousand words. It is one 
that most women thought was left behind when pictures only came in 
black and white.
  But this was not the only story this morning that made women feel as 
if the clock had been turned back on them. The other story comes to us 
from the Republican Presidential nomination trail. It seems that 
yesterday, on national television, one of the chief financial backers 
for Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate who is now surging toward 
the nomination, suggested that contraception was once as simple as a 
woman putting aspirin between her knees. Really? Shocking. Appalling. 
An insult. In fact, both of these stories are enough to make any woman, 
regardless of her own politics, angry. It certainly does me.
  These are things that are happening today and they are enough to make 
you believe that after years of progress, nothing has changed. For many 
women and men who are waking up to the news this morning, it may seem 
this is a swift and sudden attack on women's health care, but I am here 
on the floor of the Senate today to tell you all there is nothing 
sudden about it. There is nothing new about these Republican attacks on 
our family planning decisions. In fact, from the moment they came into 
power, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a 
war on women's health. If you do not believe me, look at the first 
bills they introduced after they arrived here in Washington, DC, and 
were sworn into office. After campaigning across the country on a 
platform of jobs and the economy, the first three bills they introduced 
were direct attacks on women's health in America.
  The very first bill, H.R. 1, would have totally eliminated title X 
funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention. It included 
an amendment that would have completely defunded Planned Parenthood and 
cut off support for millions of women who count on it.
  Another one of their opening round of bills, more than a year ago, 
would have permanently codified the Hyde amendment and the DC abortion 
ban, and the original version of their bill did not even include an 
exception for the health of the mother.
  Finally, they introduced a bill right away that would have rolled 
back every single one of the gains we worked so hard to get for women 
in the health care reform bill. It would have removed the caps on out-
of-pocket expenses that protect women from losing their homes and their 
life savings if they get sick. It ended the ban on lifetime limits on 
coverage. It allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate 
against women by charging them higher premiums or even denying women 
access for so-called preexisting conditions--that, by the way, includes 
  It would have rolled back the guarantee that insurance companies 
cover contraceptive activities, which will save the overwhelming 
majority of women who use them hundreds of dollars a year.
  In addition to showing their true colors with their very first 
legislative efforts, Republicans have shown they will go to about any 
limit to restrict our access to care, even shutting down the Federal 
Government. It seems extreme? That is exactly what happened last April, 
when Republicans nearly shuttered the Federal Government over a rider 
that was another attempt to go after title X and Planned Parenthood.
  I remember, I was in those meetings, months and months of 
negotiations on the numbers in our budget. I was astonished that 
Republicans, late at night, were willing to throw all that work away to 
go after women's health. I was the only woman in the room that night. I 
can remember being personally disgusted that Republicans thought they 
could get away with making women victims, under the cover of darkness, 
in the middle of the night, with moments to go before the government 
was shut down.
  But I also remember the resounding ``no'' when they tried to pull 
that, first from me, then from my women colleagues joining me today, 
and then a loud and overwhelming chorus of men and women all across the 
country. That chorus of women was heard again a few weeks ago after yet 
another attack on women's health care. This time the attack came 
cloaked in a sham investigation led by some of the same

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congressional Republicans who yesterday had this all-male panel talking 
about women's contraception. It was an investigation of the Susan G. 
Komen Breast Cancer charity sites to cut off funding for lifesaving 
breast cancer screenings for women. We know what happened after the 
outcry followed that decision. I certainly remember going home and 
standing shoulder to shoulder with women and men in my home State in 
front of a clinic that provided those breast screening referrals and 
pledging to safeguard against any future attacks in the wake of that 
decision, but I didn't think it would come the very next week. 
Apparently, Republicans are still not done. Even after the loud rebuke 
after the Komen decision, they have decided again to pick on women's 

  Just last week, the junior Senator from Missouri introduced an 
amendment to a job-creating transportation infrastructure bill that is 
as extreme as anything we have seen. It is an amendment that will allow 
any employer--a barber, a banker, a multinational corporation--to be 
given an exemption to not cover contraception or any essential 
preventive for any religious or moral reason. It is an amendment that 
would give any employer an unprecedented license to dictate what women 
can and cannot have covered. It puts your employer smack in the middle 
between you and your health care. It is politics between women and 
their health care, and before the news that women across the country 
awoke to this morning, it was just the most recent in a very long line 
of attacks on our reproductive rights.
  Contraceptive coverage should not be a controversial issue. It is 
supported by the vast majority of Americans who understand how 
important it is for women and their families, but let me remind 
everyone Republicans have made it clear from the start this is not 
about what is best for women or men or their family-planning decisions, 
it is apparently a political calculation. This is about their 
constituency. It is about their continued push to do whatever it takes 
to push their extreme agenda.
  The women of the Senate, the Democratic women, are here to say 
enough. We are standing today and every day to fight for women and 
their right to make their own basic health care decisions, not their 
employer, not an extreme part of the Republican Party, not some men on 
a panel but themselves. We will continue to do so, and I am proud to 
stand with the women of the Senate to do just that.
  I yield the floor.
  Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I may 
consume 3 minutes and my colleague from California may also consume 3 
minutes before we move on to the next matter.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so 
  Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I have said it time and time again 
all across New York State at event after event: We need more women's 
voices in our decisionmaking process. We need more women at the table 
in government and in business. When women are at the table, they bring 
a very different perspective to the same problems, a different set of 
solutions, a different approach. At the end of the day, the outcomes 
are better when women's voices are heard.
  But just when I thought I couldn't be any more dumbfounded by the 
debate around here in terms of denying access to women's health 
services, there was a hearing yesterday in the House of Representatives 
on the topic of contraception and all the witnesses were male. My 
colleague, Carolyn Maloney, had it quite right when she walked out on 
that farce.
  Let me be clear, once again: 99 percent of all America's women have 
used contraception at some time in their lifetime. When will they get 
this simple, nondebatable fact that the power to decide whether a woman 
will use contraception lies with her, not her boss, not her employer. 
What is more intrusive than trying to allow an employer to make medical 
decisions for someone who works for them? This has nothing to do with 
religious freedom, and you don't have to take it from me. Take it from 
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In the majority decision of the 
1990 case on Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia wrote:

       We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs 
     excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law 
     prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate.

  It is time to end this ridiculous, ideological fight once and for all 
and get back to the real business at hand of growing our economy and 
getting Americans back to work.
  But if our Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue 
head on, we will stand here as often as is necessary and draw a line in 
the sand that the women of the Senate will continue to oppose these 
attacks on women's rights and women's health care.
  I yield the floor for my colleague from California.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from California.
  Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I wish to associate myself with the 
remarks of my fellow colleagues this morning. They are eloquent. When I 
looked at this scene that Senator Murray and Senator Shaheen had up 
here and looked at this picture of this panel that is supposed to be 
speaking about women's health--in particular, birth control--obviously 
I was stunned. It brought back a memory from 20 years ago when all of 
America looked at the Senate and saw there was not one woman on the 
Senate Judiciary Committee, and they realized that year, in 1991, that 
there were only two women in the entire Senate. It sent shockwaves 
through the country. Whether one agreed with Anita Hill or Clarence 
Thomas, that was not the point. We had very strong feelings about that 
on both sides.
  The point of this is that on an issue so critical to this Nation, the 
next Supreme Court Justice, there was not one woman on the Senate 
Judiciary Committee, and we had the ``Year of the Woman,'' and we 
tripled the number of women in the Senate. It wasn't much, 2 to 6, but 
it was a start, and now we are at 17, and we are going higher because 
yesterday this is what America saw, a Republican House of 
Representatives that is so hostile to women's health that they didn't 
even think about having a person on there who was a female, nor did 
they have anyone on there that agreed it is important that women have 
access to birth control knowing that for many women birth control is 
medicine, knowing that 99 percent of women, sometime in her lifetime, 
utilized birth control.
  So this picture is worth a thousand words. I have a 16-year-old 
grandson. I came home, I had this picture in my hand. I went up to 
him--he's not particularly political--and I said: Zach, what do you 
notice about this? He said: ``It's all dudes.'' This does not take a 
degree in political science to see what is going on here. When we come 
back, we are going to be on the highway bill. There will be some bumps 
in the road along the way, but at one point we will probably have an 
amendment to vote on called the Blunt amendment. As we get to that 
later, I will talk about it.
  But Senator Blunt, a Republican Senator from Missouri, has put 
forward an amendment that would allow any single employer--regardless 
of how large or small their operation--to deny essential health care to 
their employees and preventive health care if they simply say it is a 
matter of conscience. It is right there. Senator Blunt says: Oh, no. I 
heard Senator Brown defending Senator Blunt saying: No, no. Oh, yes. 
Just read it and look at the list of lifesaving and health-saving 
services that would be denied.
  So women of America and the men who care about you, get ready because 
there is an assault on women, and stand with us.
  Thank you very much.
  I would yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from New York.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I wish to thank my colleagues from 
California, New York, New Hampshire, and Washington State for the great 
job they have done. Before I speak about our judicial nominee, I wish 
to say I join them in their remarks and their feelings. This is about 
women's health, and women and men all over America are scratching their 
heads and saying: Are we fighting against contraception? Are we turning 
the clock back 60 or 70 years? It makes no sense.
  If a woman wants contraception for either birth control or other 
health purposes--and most women use it for other health purposes--it is 
up to that woman, not her employer. That is the

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bottom line. The vast majority of Americans, men and women, agree with 
that statement. That is true of every major religion from the polling 
data I have seen.
  Frankly, I don't understand this Republican Party. First, they made 
war on the Hispanic community, one of the fastest growing segments in 
America on immigration, and now they are making a war on the majority 
of America, women. While not every woman feels the way we do, the vast 
majority of women do. So I don't get it.
  Then to take an amendment such as that from my friend from Missouri 
and expand it even further and say, if someone owns a McDonald's, they 
can decide to not provide contraceptive services--the real reason might 
be because they don't want to pay extra or other reasons that are not 
religiously based--I don't get it.
  I hope we do have a vote on the Blunt amendment because I think the 
American people would not be for that amendment on an overwhelming 
basis. The more they learn about it, the more that happens, and that is 
why the tide is moving in that direction.
  I wish to thank my colleagues for allowing me to say a few words on 
that issue.