Oversight Committee Hearing Highlights Threat to Abortion Rights

Sep 30, 2021
Press Release
In Moving Testimonies, Members of Congress, Witnesses Share Personal Abortion Stories and Urge Congress to Act

Washington, D.C. (September 30, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing on the existential threat to abortion rights and access posed by extreme anti-choice state actions like Texas Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8) and a Supreme Court that is hostile to reproductive rights and expected to take up a challenge to Roe v. Wade this term.  The hearing highlighted actions the federal government can take to protect and expand access to abortion care.  


“Nearly 1 in 4 women in the United States will have an abortion in their lifetime,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement.  “But with a hostile Supreme Court, extremist state governments are no longer chipping away at our constitutional rights—they are bulldozing right through them.  We must take bold action to protect and expand abortion care rights and access.” 


At today’s hearing, the Committee heard landmark testimony from Members of Congress about their abortion stories.  Committee Member Representative Cori Bush;  Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus Representative Barbara Lee, and Representative Pramila Jayapal shared their personal experiences accessing abortion care.  Representative Judy Chu urged the Senate to pass her bill to protect abortion rights


“Today, we have the privilege of hearing directly from our congressional colleagues who are incredible leaders on issues of reproductive rights and access,” Chairwoman Maloney stated.  “Their personal experiences demonstrate why every person must be able to exercise their right to choose abortion, and I am grateful to them for coming forward to share their stories.” 


  • Rep. Bush testified, “Today, I sit before you as that nurse, as that pastor ... as that activist, as that survivor, that single mom, that Congresswoman, to testify that in the Summer of 1994 I was raped, I became pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion.” 


  • Rep. Jayapal testified:  “Until 2019, I never spoke publicly or privately about my abortion.  In fact, I did not even tell my mother about it. ... Two years ago I decided to tell my abortion story as a Member of Congress because I was so deeply concerned about the abortion ban legislation that was coming out from states across the country.  Today I am testifying before you because I want you to know that there are so many difference situations that people face in making these choices.”  


  • Rep. Chu, lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, testified:  “Abortion access is often determined by an individual’s zip code.  Nearly 90% of America’s counties are without a single abortion provider, and six states are down to their last abortion clinic.  No constitutional right should be contingent on where you live.  My bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, would put a stop to these state-based attacks and enshrine the protections of Roe into law by ensuring that providers have the right to provide, and patients have the right to receive, abortion free of medically unnecessary restrictions.” 


  • Rep. Lee, lead sponsor of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act, testified, “The Hyde Amendment, from its inception, was racist and discriminatory and aimed at people with low incomes and people of color.”  She continued, “Today, on the 45th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment’s passage, I think about people like Rosie Jimenez, a Latina who died because the Hyde Amendment denied her the ability to have a safe abortion because her insurance would not cover it.” 


On the second panel, the Committee heard testimony from Ms. Gloria Steinem, feminist and social activist;  Ms. Maleeha Aziz, Community Organizer at Texas Equal Access Fund;  Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, Board Member of the Physicians for Reproductive Health;  Professor Melissa Murray, Professor of Law at New York University; and Professor Loretta Ross, Co-Founder of the Reproductive Justice Movement.  Minority witnesses Dr. Ingrid Skop, Texas-based OB/GYN and Representative Kat Cammack also testified.  


Witnesses emphasized the existential threat posed to abortion access by states like Texas, which are imposing draconian bans and restrictions, as well as the anti-choice majority in the Supreme Court. 


  • In response to questioning from Chairwoman Maloney, Ms. Steinem testified, “It is absolutely fundamental that we control our own bodies; there is no democracy without that.  We are fighting for the very basics of democracy.” 
  • Testifying about state trigger bans, Professor Murray warned that “in the event Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the state will immediately recriminalize abortion within its borders; and the effect of that, of course, would be profound.  It would turn vast swaths of the United States into abortion-free zones, and it would turn women living in those states into reproductive refugees.” 
  • When asked how state abortion restrictions affect her patients, Dr. Moayedi testified:

“I’m a licensed physician who has practiced in both Hawai’i and Texas, providing expert abortion care.  And although I am the same physician with the same expert skills and training, I am compelled by Texas to provide substandard care patients in Dallas compared to Honolulu.” 


Witnesses highlighted how abortion restrictions disproportionately harm communities that already experience health disparities, including people of color, people with lower incomes, and people in rural communities.    


  • Professor Murray testified:  “If Roe is overruled, that will turn this question to the states and this country will be a patchwork of reproductive access where some parts of the country will have uneven, if not abysmal, access to reproductive healthcare while others will not, and that will have profound implications for poor women, women of color, LGBTQ women, women who live in rural areas.” 
  • Asked about the impact of abortion restrictions on marginalized communities, 

Professor Ross testified:  “As we found out through COVID, people who already had inadequate health care, who already had limited life choices, found their lives made worse when they have to deal with an unexpected health crisis and particularly when they have to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.  So for black women, Latina women, indigenous women, disabled people, people who are already marginalized and underserved by the existing health care system, they will find their lives made worse, they will find that they have fewer options, and they will find that they have to go through even more extraordinary hardships to take care of the children they already have, to try to find a job, or keep a job that they’re already marginalized at.”     


  • Ms. Aziz testified, “I think abortion should be easy to access no matter what, but the wealthy will always be able to access abortion because they can hop on a flight, they can take time off, they can afford to lose wages.”  She explained that the same opportunities do not exist “for minorities, for people rural areas, for minors, for trans folks, for any sort of vulnerable community.” 


Witnesses and Democratic Members called on Congress to take bold action to protect the right to abortion and expand access—starting with Senate passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, the elimination of the Hyde Amendment, and legislation to safeguard the right to vote. 


  • Professor Ross emphasized, “Ever since the Hyde amendment was enacted, people whose healthcare was provided by the federal government have been treated as second-class citizens and they are discriminated against because of how their healthcare is provided, not their medical conditions.” 


Click here to watch the hearing. 


Click here to watch Rep. Bush’s testimony. 


Click here to watch Rep. Jayapal’s testimony. 


Click here to watch Rep. Lee’s testimony.  


Click here to watch Rep. Judy Chu’s testimony.



117th Congress