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Richard Durbin on Abortion

Democratic Sr Senator (IL)


Preserve women’s reproductive rights

Throughout my 20 years as an elected official, I have strived to be a leader in the fight to protect women’s rights. In addition to preserving women’s reproductive rights, I have fought cuts in family planning funding and supported the coverage of contraceptives in health insurance programs.
Source: 2008 Senate campaign website, www.dickdurbin.com, “Issues” , Mar 2, 2008

Troubled that Alito 1985 memo shows closed mind on abortion

SEN. DURBIN: Most of us are troubled by this 1985 memo. You said yesterday, you would have an open mind when it came to this issue. I’m sorry to report that your memo seeking a job in the Reagan administration does not evidence an open mind. It evidences a mind that sadly is closed in some areas. And yet, when we have tried to press you on this critical statement that you made in that application, a statement which was made by you that said the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion, you’ve been unwilling to distance yourself and to say that you disagree with that.

ALITO: The things that I said in the 1985 memo were a true expression of my views at the time from my vantage point as an attorney in the Solicitor General’s office. But that was 20 years ago and a great deal has happened in the case law since then. Thornburg was decided and Webster and then Casey and a number of other decisions. So the stare decisis analysis would have to take account of that entire line of case law.

Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

Doesn’t condemn converts to pro-choice, since he did

SEN. DURBIN: Two personal references to me -- one related to the fact that I had earlier been in a pro-life position in my political life, and it is true. I’ve stood for election more than 12 times in the House and Senate, general and primary, stating my position as pro-choice. So the voters of Illinois know that. I had asked Judge Alito whether his position had changed from 1985. I don’t consider that to be a shortcoming, if you would concede it changed. Although, at this point, you have not made that concession. Abraham Lincoln was once accused of changing his position on an issue, and he said, “I’d rather be right some of the time than wrong all the time.” And so I don’t think changing your mind is necessarily a condemnation. The second point I’d like to make specifically is my reference to settled law. Roe v. Wade is settled law.
Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

Voted NO on restricting UN funding for population control policies.

Congressional Summary:To require that amounts appropriated for the United Nations Population Fund are not used by organizations which support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. WICKER (R-MS): This amendment with one issue and one issue only--whether US taxpayer dollars will be provided to help fund coercive population control policies, such as China's one-child policy--a policy that relies on coerced abortion and forced sterilization. Specifically, this pro-child, pro-family, pro-woman amendment would restore the Kemp-Kasten antipopulation control provision, which has been a fundamental part of our foreign policy for almost a quarter century. As it has always done, Kemp-Kasten allows the President to certify that funds are not used for coercive family practices. My amendment is needed because the underlying bill reverses this longstanding provision.

Sen. COBURN (R-OK): I stand in the corner of pro-life. But I want to debate this issue as if I were pro-choice. If we believe that women have a right to choose, why in the world would we send money to UNFP that is going to take that right away from women in other countries? You can't be on both sides of this issue. Either you believe in a woman's right to choose or you do not. Or you only believe in a woman's right to choose in America, and because the Chinese have too many people, you don't think that same human right ought to be given to women in China. There is no question that UNFP will mix this money, and we will fund forced abortions in China. [Without this amendment] American taxpayer dollars are going to go to China to enforce coercive abortion against the will of women and force sterilization against the will of women in China.

Opponent's argument to vote No:None spoke against the amendment.

Reference: Wicker Amdt.; Bill S.Amdt.607 to H.R.1105 ; vote number 2009-S081 on Mar 5, 2009

Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To require that legislation to reauthorize SCHIP include provisions codifying the unborn child regulation. Amends the definition of the term "targeted low-income child" to provide that such term includes the period from conception to birth, for eligibility for child health assistance.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ALLARD: This amendment will codify the current unborn child rule by amending the SCHIP reauthorization reserve fund. This amendment will clarify in statute that the term "child" includes the period from conception to birth. This is a pro-life vote.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. FEINSTEIN: We already clarified SCHIP law that a pregnant woman's coverage under SCHIP law is optional. We made it obligatory so every pregnant woman has the advantage of medical insurance. This amendment undoes that. It takes it away from the woman and gives it to the fetus. Now, if a pregnant woman is in an accident, loses the child, she does not get coverage, the child gets coverage. We already solved the problem. If you cover the pregnant woman, you cover her fetus. What Senator Allard does is remove the coverage from the pregnant woman and cover the fetus.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 46-52

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4233 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S081 on Mar 14, 2008

Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To increase funding for the vigorous enforcement of a prohibition against taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions consistent with the Child Custody Protection Act.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ENSIGN: This amendment enables enforcing the Child Custody Protection Act, which passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion by a vote of 65 to 34. Too many times we enact laws, and we do not fund them. This is going to set up funding so the law that says we are going to protect young children from being taken across State lines to have a surgical abortion--we are going to make sure those people are protected. OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. BOXER: We already voted for $50 million to enhance the enforcement of child protective laws. If Sen. Ensign's bill becomes law, then that money is already there to be used for such a program. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 49-49 (1/2 required, or 50 votes; Sen. Byrd & Sen. McCain absent)

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4335 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S071 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on barring HHS grants to organizations that perform abortions.

Vote on an amendment, S.AMDT.3330, to H.R.3043 (HHS Appropriations Bill): To prohibit the provision of funds to grantees who perform abortions, with exceptions for maternal health.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. VITTER: Whatever side of the abortion debate you are on, we can all agree on one thing: Abortion is a very divisive topic. In that context, I think it is the right policy to say we are not going to send taxpayer dollars to support groups that perform abortions. Now, the other side will say: Well, we have current Federal law that says we are not going to use taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. But, quite frankly, that is not good enough. Because now, we send Federal dollars to abortion providers and money is fungible--it is a big shell game and it supports their organizations and, in many cases, that funding is a huge percentage of their overall revenue.

Letter of Support from Family Research Council:

Recent reports indicate that Planned Parenthood generated over $900 million in income in 2006, of which over $300 million came from government. We should not be sending taxpayer money to an organization such as Planned Parenthood that performs abortions. Your support for the Vitter amendment will uphold the principle that the US taxpayer should not have to subsidize the abortion industry.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BOXER: The Vitter amendment is "Big Brother" at its very worst. It tells non-governmental entities how they should spend their own private funds. This amendment punishes the very organizations that work hard every day using their own funds to provide family planning services and reproductive health care, including legal abortion services. If Sen. Vitter wants to deny these funds, he should work to outlaw all abortion. That is an honest way. But to punish a private organization that works to give women a full array of reproductive health care is really, I think, a very sorry idea.

Reference: Vitter Amendment to HHS/Education/Labor Appropriations; Bill S.Amdt. 3330 to H.R. 3043 ; vote number 2007-379 on Oct 18, 2007

Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines.

Allows federal funding for research that utilizes human embryonic stem cells, regardless of the date on which the stem cells were derived from a human embryo, provided such embryos:
  1. have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics;
  2. were created for the purposes of fertility treatment;
  3. were in excess of the needs of the individuals seeking such treatment and would otherwise be discarded; and
  4. were donated by such individuals with written informed consent and without any financial or other inducements.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Since 2 years ago, the last Stem Cell bill, public support has surged for stem cells. Research is proceeding unfettered and, in some cases, without ethical standards in other countries. And even when these countries have ethical standards, our failures are allowing them to gain the scientific edge over the US. Some suggest that it is Congress' role to tell researchers what kinds of cells to use. I suggest we are not the arbiters of research. Instead, we should foster all of these methods, and we should adequately fund and have ethical oversight over all ethical stem cell research.

Opponents support voting NO because:

A good deal has changed in the world of science. Amniotic fluid stem cells are now available to open a broad new area of research. I think the American people would welcome us having a hearing to understand more about this promising new area of science. As it stands today, we will simply have to debate the bill on the merits of information that is well over 2 years old, and I think that is unfortunate.

The recent findings of the pluripotent epithelial cells demonstrates how quickly the world has changed. Wouldn't it be nice to have the researcher before our committee and be able to ask those questions so we may make the best possible judgment for the American people?
Status: Vetoed by Pres. Bush Bill passed, 63-34

Reference: Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act; Bill S.5 & H.R.3 ; vote number 2007-127 on Apr 11, 2007

Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.

This bill prohibits taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions. Makes an exception for an abortion necessary to save the life of the minor. Authorizes any parent to sue unless such parent committed an act of incest with the minor. Imposes a fine and/or prison term of up to one year on a physician who performs an abortion on an out-of-state minor in violation of parental notification requirements in their home state.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This bill deals with how young girls are being secretly taken across State lines for the purpose of abortion, without the consent of their parents or even the knowledge of their parents, in violation of the laws of the State in which they live. 45 states have enacted some sort of parental consent laws or parental notification law. By simply secreting a child across State lines, one can frustrate the State legislature's rules. It is subverting and defeating valid, constitutionally approved rights parents have.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Some States have parental consent laws, some don't. In my particular State, it has been voted down because my people feel that if you ask them, "Do they want their kids to come to their parents?", absolutely. But if you ask them, "Should you force them to do so, even in circumstances where there could be trouble that comes from that?", they say no.

This bill emanates from a desire that our children come to us when we have family matters, when our children are in trouble, that they not be fearful, that they not be afraid that they disappoint us, that they be open with us and loving toward us, and we toward them. This is what we want to have happen. The question is: Can Big Brother Federal Government force this on our families? That is where we will differ.

Reference: Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act; Bill S.403 ; vote number 2006-216 on Jul 25, 2006

Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives.

Vote to adopt an amendment to the Senate's 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that allocates $100 million for the prevention of unintended pregnancies. A YES vote would expand access to preventive health care services that reduce unintended pregnancy (including teen pregnancy), reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women's health care. A YES vote would:
Reference: Appropriation to expand access to preventive health care services; Bill S.Amdt. 244 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-75 on Mar 17, 2005

Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime.

Bill would make it a criminal offense to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of a violent crime. The measure would set criminal penalties, the same as those that would apply if harm or death happened to the pregnant woman, for those who harm a fetus. It is not required that the individual have prior knowledge of the pregnancy or intent to harm the fetus. This bill prohibits the death penalty from being imposed for such an offense. The bill states that its provisions should not be interpreted to apply a woman's actions with respect to her pregnancy.
Reference: Unborn Victims of Violence Act; Bill S.1019/HR.1997 ; vote number 2004-63 on Mar 25, 2004

Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life.

S. 3 As Amended; Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Vote to pass a bill banning a medical procedure, which is commonly known as "partial-birth" abortion. Those who performed this procedure would then face fines and up to two years in prison, the women to whom this procedure is performed on are not held criminally liable. This bill would make the exception for cases in which a women's life is in danger, not for cases where a women's health is in danger.
Reference: Bill S.3 ; vote number 2003-51 on Mar 12, 2003

Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions.

Vote on a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities.
Reference: Bill S 2549 ; vote number 2000-134 on Jun 20, 2000

Voted NO on banning human cloning.

This cloture motion was in order to end debate and move to consideration of legislation banning human cloning. [A YES vote opposes human cloning].
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)42; N)54; NV)4
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on motion to proceed to S. 1601; Bill S. 1601 ; vote number 1998-10 on Feb 11, 1998

Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record.

Durbin scores 100% by NARAL on pro-choice voting record

For over thirty years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been the political arm of the pro-choice movement and a strong advocate of reproductive freedom and choice. NARAL Pro-Choice America's mission is to protect and preserve the right to choose while promoting policies and programs that improve women's health and make abortion less necessary. NARAL Pro-Choice America works to educate Americans and officeholders about reproductive rights and health issues and elect pro-choice candidates at all levels of government. The NARAL ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: NARAL website 03n-NARAL on Dec 31, 2003

Expand embryonic stem cell research.

Durbin signed a letter from 58 Senators to the President

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to expand the current federal policy concerning embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be used to treat and better understand deadly and disabling diseases and conditions that affect more than 100 million Americans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and many others.

We appreciate your words of support for the enormous potential of this research, and we know that you intended your policy to help promote this research to its fullest. As you know, the Administration's policy limits federal funding only to embryonic stem cells that were derived by August 9, 2001.

However, scientists have told us that since the policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned that the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research. We therefore feel it is essential to relax the restrictions in the current policy for this research to be fully explored.

Among the difficult challenges with the current policy are the following:

We would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures for which we are all hoping.
Source: Letter from 58 Senators to the President 04-SEN8 on Jun 4, 2004

Rated 0% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-choice stance.

Durbin scores 0% by the NRLC on abortion issues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2006 NRLC scores as follows:

About the NRLC (from their website, www.nrlc.org):

The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense. The National Right to Life Committee was founded in 1973 in response to the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, legalizing the practice of human abortion in all 50 states, throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.

The NRLC has been instrumental in achieving a number of legislative reforms at the national level, including a ban on non-therapeutic experimentation of unborn and newborn babies, a federal conscience clause guaranteeing medical personnel the right to refuse to participate in abortion procedures, and various amendments to appropriations bills which prohibit (or limit) the use of federal funds to subsidize or promote abortions in the United States and overseas.

In addition to maintaining a lobbying presence at the federal level, NRLC serves as a clearinghouse of information for its state affiliates and local chapters, its individual members, the press, and the public.

Source: NRLC website 06n-NRLC on Dec 31, 2006

Let military perform abortions in cases of rape or incest.

Durbin signed MARCH for Military Women Act

Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health for Military Women Act or the MARCH for Military Women Act - Amends the prohibition on using funds available to the Department of Defense (DOD) to perform abortions by adding an exception for cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. (Current law provides an exception only where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.) Repeals a statutory restriction on using a medical treatment facility or other facility of the DOD to perform an abortion.

[Explanatory note from campusprogress.org "Military Reproductive Rights Bill", 7/5/11]:

Currently, the health coverage U.S. servicewomen have doesn't cover abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. U.S. servicewomen are also not permitted to use their own money to pay for an abortion at a military hospital. Military women stationed abroad are most affected by this regulation, as they would be forced to seek abortion services at foreign hospitals, which may be unsafe, or request permission from a supervisor to leave the country, which forces them to divulge that they are seeking an abortion. Most other American women who receive health care from the government but are not in the service can receive abortions in the case of rape, incest, or to the save the life of the mother. The MARCH for Military Women Act would give servicewomen coverage for abortion in the case of rape or incest and allow them to use their own funds for abortion at a U.S. military facility. NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood are among many organizations that support this legislation.

Source: HR2085&S1214 11-S1214 on Jun 16, 2011

Emergency contraception at all military health facilities.

Durbin signed emergency contraception at all military health facilities

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS:

Sen. FRANKEN: The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act is a straightforward but vital piece of legislation. It would ensure that servicewomen in our military have reliable and timely access to emergency contraception when they need it.

Emergency contraception, or Plan B as it is more commonly known under its brand name, is Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that prevents pregnancy. It is safe and, if taken shortly after pregnancy, highly effective. Since 2006, the FDA has approved it for over-the-counter sale. Currently, women 17 years old and older may purchase emergency contraception over the counter, while those younger require a prescription. Emergency contraception is widely available at pharmacies throughout the U.S. The problem this legislation is meant to address is that there's no guarantee that emergency contraception be available to our servicewomen in the military. Immediate accessibility is especially important in the case of emergency contraception because it is only effective if taken within a short window of time. Once a pregnancy is established, it doesn't work. The fact that more than 2,900 sexual assaults were reported last year in the military only heightens the need to ensure emergency contraception is always available.

Source: Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act (S.2904) 2009-S2904 on Dec 17, 2009

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