I was looking back at a website I created during my freshman year of college at Michigan State University. While I hope that my writing has improved at least *a little* in the intervening years, I stand by my views expressed in the post below (originally posted here). I wrote this at a time when I religiously watched congressional floor debates on C-Span. I recall seeing then-Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) give a from-the-heart floor speech about reproductive liberty – a speech whose passion and personal conviction I’ve seen replicated rarely since. (Incidentally, Johnson authored the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole” that forces your grandma and grandpa to spend more out-of-pocket money on prescription drugs – nobody’s perfect). In 1998, Republican moderates like Johnson, Chris Shays, and Connie Morella were a rare breed in Congress. Now, they are virtually nonexistent. We are all worse off when one of the major political parties no longer welcomes supporters of women’s rights. Cheers to Mrs. Johnson for her courageous stand in 1998, and here’s hoping that the White House continues to be inhabited by a president who will appoint pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court.
Abortion and Choice: An Individual Decision
There are few issues more personal and complex than decisions associated with reproductive health. The “Right to Life” movement has moved the issue to the forefront of American politics and galvanized a potent force that has effectively altered the terms of the abortion debate. This reactionary political alliance has steadily and consistently sought to limit access to abortion and reproductive health services.
There is no doubt that the decision to have an abortion is a deeply moral conundrum with religious and social ramifications. However, the decision to have an abortion is a decision of which the government should have no involvement. Women have a right to privacy, set forth in Roe v. Wade, to make reproductive health decisions without the advice and consent of any form of heavy-handed government interference. In consultation with medical professionals, religious counselors, and their own God, women have the intelligence and integrity to make their own deeply personal choices.
Below is a 1998 floor statement from Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R-CT) that was given in response to an amendment offered to limit access to the “morning after” contraceptive pill. The presence of such amendments attached to appropriations bills (in this case the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act) illustrates the degree to which opponents of reproductive freedom will fight to achieve their ultimate goal: the termination of legal and safe abortions in the United States. Rep. Johnson had the courage to rise on the floor of the US House and oppose a majority in her own party who vilify reproductive rights. This speech received applause from members of the other party. Her poignant statement is simple and brief, but its potency and import capture the beauty and courage of the fight to protect reproductive liberties in America.
Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I oppose this amendment, and I think that Members have to be very sensitive to what my colleague from New Jersey is attempting
to do here today.
Is there no limit to my colleague’s willingness to impose his concept of when life begins on others? Conception is a process. Fertilization of the
egg is part of that process. But if that fertilized egg does not get implanted, it does not grow. And so on throughout the course of pregnancy.
For those who do not believe that life begins upon fertilization, but believe, in fact, that that fertilized egg has to be implanted, the gentleman is
imposing his judgment as to when life begins on that person and, in so doing, denying them what might be the safest means of contraception
available to them.
Some women cannot take the pill. It is too disruptive to them. Some women depend on intrauterine devices and other such contracptives. When we
get to the point where we have the courage to do more research in contraception , we will have many other options to offer women so that they can
have safe contraception .
For us to make the decision that that woman must choose a means of contraception that reflects any one individual’s determination as to when in
that process of conception life actually begins is a level of intrusion into conscience, into independence, into freedom that, frankly, I have never
witnessed. Even the issue of being for or against abortion is a different issue than we debate here tonight. We have never, ever intruded to this
When I talk to my friends who are obstetricians, because all my colleagues know my husband is a retired obstetrician, how the pills work is not
simple. In some women they have one effect, and they may have first effects and secondary effects. They prevent ovulation in general but not
absolutely. And if there is a fertilization while on the pill, the pill prevents implantation.
So this is a complex process. And for us to imagine here tonight that it is either right or proper or possible for the gentleman to impose his
determination on others at this level is extraordinary. As a Republican who believes that government should stay out of our lives, I oppose this
amendment with everything in me. And I would ask my colleagues, those who are pro life–and I honor that position. And I would say that the
pro-life members of our Nation have changed the issue of abortion over these years. People take it far more seriously. It is not as casual. They
have made an enormous difference for the good in our Nation. But that does not make it right for them to step, then, into this level and try to make
definitions that, frankly, are not nearly so simple as my friend and respected colleague, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Coburn), implies.
The lines are not clear. They are not simple. I would ask my colleague to respect that we are a Nation founded on the belief that we should have
freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, and this amendment deeply, deeply compromises those liberties.
CORRECTION OF CONGRESSIONAL RECORD OF JULY 16, 1998, PAGES 5719, 5720 AND 5721, DURING DEBATE
ON H.R. 4104, TREASURY AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 1999 (House of Representatives – July 20, 1998)