tv Sen. Tina Smith on Abortion Rights CSPAN June 27, 2022 9:51pm-10:22pm EDT
billions building infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunities in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. charter communications supports c-span as a public service. along with these other television providers. giving you a front row seat to democracy. >> abortion on the supreme court's ruling overturning roe v. wade was the focus of two discussions held by the washington post. we were hear from minnesota democratic senator tina smith who opposes the hearing and the president of susan b. anthony pro-life america, who supports it. orning, i am an anchor at washington post life and co-author of the newsletter. thank you for coming to this important program and i'm joined by senator tina smith. it's about the supreme court
decision about roe v. wade and puts the russian of abortion back to the states. senator smith, thanks for joining us today. senator smith: i'm sorry i can't be with you in person but i'm glad to have a conversation with you. >> we have so many questions. for our audience, if you have questions, you can tweet us @ post live. we heard a little bit about your reaction in the out true -- in the intro. it's been two days now, three days since this happened. what are your thoughts after her processing this for a few days? senator smith: long before i ever came to the united states senate, i worked at planned parenthood. i came to understand firsthand how people make these decisions about whether or not to continue
pregnancy and i so people make decisions with such strong judgment, such good moral judgment. what i've been thinking about a lot is that people who were in the abortion clinic friday, people who had made a decision about what they needed to do and the best decision they could put together some money and figured out how to get to the clinic and worked on transportation issues and if they had children already, that to make sure they were taken care of. then they were told this decision is no longer yours. you don't have the right to make this decision. the implications of that for women are all across this country. it's so dramatic and hard to unpack and understand what will happen. over these last few days, i've been thinking a lot about all of these people who are ready to make the decision and have made
the decision and now long -- and out no longer have that freedom. this is not a political issue for these folks. a lot of women friday didn't know the supreme court was going to be handing down decisions. they were trying to figure out how to live their lives and now they can't make decisions on their own lives. what do they do about that? there are challenges for women and it's just traumatic. as i've been saying all weekend, the supreme court has spoken but they will not have the last word. that is what i think these next two months are going to be about and this will take a long time to undo. leigh ann: you cute up my next question purposely. -- you queued up my next question purposely. what will they do? sen. smith: we have to elect people to the senate who will support putting the protections of roe v. wade into law.
how far away is the election? it's 4.5 months. what we need to do is we need to call on the biden administration everything they can with all the powers they have to protect the rights were they can but we understand that will not be enough. their powers are limited. you're looking to the states to reinforce what they will do we can talk about what's happening in minnesota which is an island in the upper midwest where abortion is illegal. in the united states, we have to make the case that this didn't just happen. it happened because republican senators and a republican president, five out of the six supreme court justice were part of this majority decision were appointed by a president who did not win the popular vote. we need to elect democrats to
the senate so we can fix this problem. leigh ann: i want to ask about that specifically. you mentioned some of the justices appointed by president who didn't win the popular vote. perhaps you and other democrats in the senate, are you discussing changing the process of confirming a supreme court justice? sen. smith: i'm talking about the need for broad democratic reform here starting with reforming the filibuster, the rules of the senate so that a minority in the united states senate cannot stop us from putting into place laws that the vast majority of americans want. the protections of roe v. wade are broadly popular in this country in the united states senate is unable to act on that because of senate rules. i'm talking about that and looking at reforming the electoral college or at least having some sort of law around a
national topic so presidents who are appointing supreme court justices have to win the popular vote . and we can't get too distracted by that, the most important thing is winning elections at the state and federal level so that the people who are making decisions reflect the views of americans and that has to happen. that's what this election will be about. i believe roe v. wade will be on the ballot this november and the contrast between democrats and republicans could not be more clear. leigh ann: until the election, will the senate take anymore votes on protecting contraception's or access to other birth control or things that set -- the supreme court has not ruled on? sen. smith: the strategy of what
votes we bring up in front of the senate, i want to know that i think the difference between democrats and republicans on the core question about whether roe v. wade and the constitutional right to abortion is real should be protected by the constitution. people have seen the difference. republicans did not vote to put the protections of roe v. wade into law. are there other things we can do in the senate? you have to have 50 both right now to pass anything. i'm not sure i see a path toward passing anything which is why i am so focused on the election. leigh ann: are you worried that contraception is something that's on the table or ivf or the morning after pill will be? sen. smith: yes, i'm terribly worried about that. when you read the decision on
the case that came out friday and the arguments for why roe v. wade should be overturned, the basic argument is that you have to look at the beliefs and the history at the beginning of our country and follow what those folks thought. that's when women's freedom was severely curtailed. if you believe them that they think that part should be overturned, it's hard not to wonder and believe that they are laying the groundwork for overturning other fundamental constitutional values like the protections in griswold or mary couples to have access to contraception -- or married couples to have access to contraception or consensual sex among adults in private. justice thomas invited those
challenges i'm deeply worried about that. if you look at what's happening probably right now in state legislatures around the country there is unleased momentum to push this further at the state level for sure. and that the federal level, the minority leader mitch mcconnell says if roe v. wade is overturned, the national abortion ban would be on the table. that's the conversation it's happening right now. leigh ann: yeah, i know you said there are conversations about this happening but do you think the democrats should put republicans on the record on some of these issues? just remind our audience, after a couple of months ago, after the leak support -- supreme court decision it -- after the decision was lee, the senate voted on codifying roe v. wade and that failed. on these other issues like
contraception andivf, could you put republicans on the record on this before the midterms? sen. smith: i can see some value in putting republicans on the record. my view was that the republicans are already on the record when it comes to the rights to protecting the fundamental of people to decide about their own bodies. they are on the record. that's the reality. that's the framework for this decision that voters will be making this fall. i don't really think any particular votes on the floor of the senate will change that. what i want to see change is who is making the decision in the senate in 2023 and 2024 and 2025. leigh ann: one more question on this -- i know some republicans
have been working with senators and have voted for abortion rights before. they've been voting on compromise language to codify roe v. wade. is that something you would support? do you expect something like that to be moved to the floor this summer? sen. smith: it's a good question. if there was compromise legislation that was developed, i would have two questions about that legislation. the first is, can we be confident that legislation will protect the fundamental freedoms of roe v. wade and it will stop state legislatures from passing the kind of draconian van or severe limitations on abortion
care that we see all over the country. will it protect us from that activity at the state level now that roe v. wade has been overturned? the second question is are there 50 votes in that legislation? i think that is the foundation question. i don't believe there are 10 republicans that would vote to put the protections of roe v. wade into law and that brings me back to the fundamental difference between republicans and democrats. most republicans with one or two exceptions are dramatically out of step with americans deciding for themselves about whether or not they terminate a pregnancy until viability. and we shouldn't have draconian barriers on women making those decisions on their face with life and health decisions. again, that's the fundamental question.
could it pass? i don't think it would ever happen and what truly protect abortion rights given what state legislatures are doing around the country? leigh ann: you did an op-ed over the weekend with senator elizabeth warren. you're asking president biden to open perhaps abortion clinics on federal land. can you explain that more? sen. smith: what we wrote in our op-ed, amongst the many things he said we need to do between now and the election, we said we urged the president to use all the powers he has in order to protect access to abortion care around the country. we talked about the possibility of the president declaring a public health emergency. this would be another way for the full legal authority of the federal government to be brought into play to protect women's
health. the united states has some of the worst disparities in in the world. those disparities for locke and brown women have dramatic impact -- black and brown women have genetic impact of their life expectancy. with the laws and the impact on women, we will say look at the kind of public health emergency this will create and address that in the ways that we can. we have to be realistic here. there is no magic solution the president has access to that will make this problem go away. this is going to take a lot of hard work to undo the damage the supreme court has done and the executive branch doesn't have to do it on its own. leigh ann: do you think this
could happen relatively soon in v.a. clinics and on tribal lands as well? sec. smith: of course tribal nations are sovereign nations and they decide for themselves. and while they should, according to treaties on power on tribal land. that is the situation. health care is available for people who receive health care through the veterans administration and they want to thank my colleague who has worked so hard on that. it is very important for us to consider. the other thing i'm very focused on is what can we do to shore up access to abortion care in states where it is still legal, including on federal land like my state of minnesota, where the governor who is running for reelection made an executive
order clarifying he will use his power to preserve abortion care for people who live in minnesota and will come to minnesota from other places. president is talking about this as well, freedom to travel is one of the fundamental freedoms in this country and we should not allow state legislatures to infringe upon it. what other thing, administration has also been clear and strong on protecting access to medication abortions in states where abortion is still legal. medication abortion is over 50% of women who choose abortions are using medication abortion. it is safe, and has been used for pregnancy for over 20 years and we need to protect that access. leigh ann: on medication abortion, how do you do that?
is that the federal government's responsibility? is it states allowing abortions to protect that right to mail that to states that do not allow abortion? how is that cross jurisdictional situation going to be worked out? sec. smith: yeah, friday the attorney general and the administration said that the administration is committed to enforcing the fda guidelines around use of medication abortion. those guidelines are clear. they say medication abortion can be prescribed without an in person visit in almost all cases, and medication abortion can be taken in your home and it can be mailed to you. the supreme court overthrowing of roe and abortion being illegal in south dakota and not in minnesota, that means
fundamentally you will have a patchwork of laws. it will be extremely confusing. i introduced legislation that would put those legislation -- those fda guidelines into law. i realize there is not enough folks -- votes in the senate to get that past but it is important people understand medication abortion is available, safe, and effective in the early stages of pregnancy, and it will provide an important avenue for people to get abortion care access. to answer your question, if i live in south dakota where abortion is banned and i want taxes medication abortion, the law could say i need to travel to minnesota to receive that medication abortion and to get there or i would be criminalized based on with the legislature and the republican governor there said. leigh ann: how are the states -- how is democratic party going to
organize and half of the states around the country? democrats control less than half of the states around the country, less than 20 as far as the legislature is concerned. how does this effort take place? sec. smith: this is organizing that has happened in every state. not only in states where abortion has been banned or severely curtailed. but if i could, let me give you an example. minnesota, where we have statewide elections happening of governor and attorney general, abortion is protected by a minnesota part -- supreme court decision. it matters, if we appoint justices to the minnesota supreme court, becca go away if we don't have leadership in the minnesota government who are ready to protect those rights. a republican candidate and him
credit governor, it could not be more clear. it will be an organizing issue here as well as in other states where the politics are what we have to do is go out and organize, raise money, have conversations with people and i want to say that have been a lot of conversations amongst republicans that say people don't care about this, they care about inflation and the economy. my answer is people vote with their whole bodies, not just their economic brain or physical health brain or mental health brain. i believe this is going to be a galvanizing issue. you can see it in the early polling data that has been coming out since the roe decision. nearly two thirds of americans believe abortion should be legal and all -- in all or some cases. nearly 50% of america thinks -- 60% of america thinks the what
the super has done is wrong. i will be an issue. leigh ann: for so many elections, democratic voters have said abortion is an important issue but it is never been the issue they've gone to the polls. you also have an economy that is struggling for some, high inflation, high gas prices, high cost of food. do you really think abortion will be on top of mind for voters in three or four months? sec. smith: i think some voters have a good understanding of what is going on. the first election i got involved in, i was a young mother, i was involved in a local state legislative race, a district that had been represented by a republican for a long time. i was working for the challenger. we went out, we organize, we had conversations people.
we talked about abortion. nobody would have thought that abortion was an issue that was uppermost on the minds of voters, with do not know the person representing them at the state legislature was antichoice. we organized in apartment buildings, they said renters won't vote, they don't care about their communities, their transient. we won by election by have a point. in that district has been represented by democrats ever since. no one would have said that abortion, access to reproductive rights, was a thriving issue in that election. certainly not the republican who lost that race. but because we had conversations with people, we won and i think that is the model for how and why we are going to win in 2022. leigh ann: people are worried,
democrats said vote for us and things will be better. i did vote, we have a democratic-controlled government right now and they are not able to do anything on this issue of abortion. how are you addressing that voter apathy? do you think that is real? sec. smith: i fundamentally push back on that argument by some to mechanic strategists, physically some version of the republicans want to blame the victim for the strategy here. i think it is fundamentally wrong. the responsibility for what has happened is surely on the shoulders of the republicans who have been fighting to overturn roe v. wade, planting a supreme court that would overturn it for decades. the most important thing is not to turn on ourselves but to make it clear who is responsible and carry the message forward. the question of democratic apathy, i just don't believe it.
i think actually there is data, although polling these days, who knows what it all adds up to. i think there is intensity around this issue that we have to capture. we don't have to fully control the senate, we have to get at least two more democratic senators and the house to accomplish this. leigh ann: do you think the democrats, those on the left, or fully -- do they really -- did they really think this day would ever come, and have you all been prepared enough for it? sec. smith: i think that when the draft decision came out and we read what justice alito was
planning on saying, i do believe there was a moment of shock at the bleakness of this decision, just write out there. when we all saw the final decision on friday, it is fair to say a lot of people were stunned. it was so blatantly rolling back 50 years of precedent, particularly when -- i never lived it -- but these new justices had promised they would uphold it because they appreciated the value of precedent and all of that. i also think that, because i get the question you are asking, i also think that we need to fundamentally look at what we have been doing and what we're are doing going forward. we can't just keep doing things the same way we have been doing them and expect a different outcome. we are in a very different world, a very different situation and we have to be more
aggressive to show that we are going to fight for this. we have to look at how we approach this differently in order to really accomplish the change and build the power that americans want us to build in this moment. it is not a time to to veto around -- it is not a time for tippy toe politics. i think if you were alive today he would be shouting out from the rooftops. now is not the time to to pito -- tippy toe around. leigh ann: you mentioned that minnesota as a state could be a sanctuary state, giving people access to abortion. his minnesota prepared for that? sec. smith: it is impossible to be prepared for that. minnesota has eight abortion clinics, mostly located in the twin cities area. a couple of weeks ago i visited a clinic in minnesota serving women across northern minnesota,
or than wisconsin and northern michigan. they are doing everything they can, but they are severely resource constrained. in terms of the providers that they have, the physical facilities they have, the financial resources they need to expand access to care, which they desperately want to do. this is why i say that a ban on abortion in south dakota, north dakota or wisconsin affects not only people in those states, but the people living in minnesota because there is no capacity to absorbable additional need in one place. you see much longer waiting times as people haul in to try to get that abortion scheduled and are being confronted with waiting two weeks, which could be too long to wait.
i don't think it is possible to be ready because the resources and capacity to respond to this need are just very difficult. this is why if you care about this issue, it is important to support and do what you can to help support this. but this is not going to -- you can't solve this problem with philanthropy. have to solve this problem by changing the laws and making sure that a woman in northern wisconsin has the same rights that a woman living in oregon minnesota does. leigh ann: going back to 2004, president obama spoke to the democratic national convention saying we are not red states, blue states, but we are the united states. with this ruling, it feels the opposite, there are red states and blue states. do you think that -- do you fear for political violence? do you
fear for a further disintegration of these united states and the right and left are becoming -- moving even further apart? sec. smith: what i fear is a government that is not responsive to the riches of the people. best wishes of the people. i fear our politics cannot rise to the moment of what people want. the challenges we have around abortion care this country demonstrate that, so clearly. we have a situation where a small minority is now dictating to women all across -- people all across this country, whether or not they can make their own decisions about abortion. this is why what we have to do is look at the democratic reform that we need to make sure our government is responsive to what it is that people want. leigh ann: senator smith, we are out of time. thank you so much for spending so much time with us, we really
appreciate it. sec. smith: thank you so much. it is great to be with you. leigh ann: thank you. for you and the audience, thank you for watching. in just a little bit we will be speaking with someone from the susan b. anthony pro-life america. she has obviously been >> hello. i am leanne caldwell. now we speak with marjorie who is the head of the susan b. anthony pro-life america who has worked for this day -- the supreme court to overturn roe v. wade. >> thank you for having me on. i am looking forward to it. >>