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U.S. Supreme Court judge nominee Neil Gorsuch is greeted by ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) while Senate Judiciary Committee at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan)

'Fundamental right'

Feinstein recounts emotional abortion story at Supreme Court nominee’s Senate confirmation hearing

By WITW Staff on March 20, 2017

The Senate confirmation hearing for federal judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, opened Monday on Capitol Hill. The most controversial issue looming over the hearing, expected to go on for multiple days this week, is that of reproductive rights. Thus, Senator Dianne Feinstein wasted no time in addressing the topic in her opening remarks. The California Democrat told a story about a woman and her husband who endured a particularly difficult pregnancy that ended with an abortion. She also expressed concern over some of Gorsuch’s writings, which is the only inkling anyone has into his possible position on abortion, since he’s never ruled on such a case.  Here are Feinstein’s complete opening remarks. (Watch it here; Feinstein’s begins speaking at about the 2:50 mark.)

“Two weeks ago, The Washington Post ran an Op-Ed written by a woman who desperately wanted to have a baby. She described how she and her husband went to great lengths for four years to get pregnant — and were thrilled when they finally succeeded. Tragically, after her 21-week checkup, they discovered her daughter had multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. They were told by three separate doctors that her condition was 100 percent fatal, and that the risk to the mother was sevenfold if she carried her pregnancy to term. The mother described their excruciating decision and the unforgiving process the couple endured to get the medical care they needed,” Feinstein said.

“The debate over Roe v. Wade and the right to privacy,” the senator continued, “ladies and gentlemen, is not theoretical. In 1973, the court recognized a woman’s fundamental and constitutional right to privacy. That right guarantees her access to reproductive health care. In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Roe’s core finding, making it settled law for the last 44 years. I ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, to enter into the record the 14 key cases where the Supreme Court upheld Roe’s core holding and the total 39 decisions where it has been reaffirmed by the court.”

Feinstein’s request was approved without objection.

“If these judgements when combined do not constitute super-precedent,” she continued, “I don’t know what does. Importantly, the dozens of cases affirming Roe are not only about precedent. They are also about a woman’s fundamental and constitutional rights. Roe ensured that women and their doctors will decide what’s best for their care — not politicians. President Trump repeatedly promised that his judicial nominees would be pro-life and ‘automatically’ overturned Roe v. Wade.  Judge Gorsuch has not had occasion to rule directly in a case involving Roe. However, his writings do raise questions. Specifically, he wrote that he believes there are no exceptions to the principle that ‘the intentional taking of a human life by private persons is always wrong.’ This language has been interpreted by both pro-life and pro-choice organizations to mean he would overturn Roe.”

The Op-Ed that Feinstein had mentioned was authored by Robin Utz and titled “I had an abortion to save my baby from pain. In my state, that didn’t matter.” In the piece, Utz goes into great detail about her ordeal, revealing that she and her husband, while struggling to get pregnant, had even considered adoption. She writes about their heartache at learning the devastating diagnosis, not only for their baby, whom they had named Grace Pearl, but for her as well. And she opened up about the lengths they and their doctors took to ensure that the outcome would be as peaceful as possible for their baby.

“We made the excruciating decision to terminate the pregnancy at 21 weeks and five days — nearly six months. We did this out of love: Terminating was the least painful and most humane thing we could do for her,” Utz writes. “We did all we could to take on the physical and emotional suffering ourselves, instead of allowing her to feel it. The physician cut her umbilical cord prior to the termination to ensure that her heart would stop beating and that she’d have as peaceful of an experience as possible. Her pa­thol­ogy report confirmed the doctors’ fatal diagnosis.”

Utz and her husband live in Missouri and she goes on in the piece to detail why getting an abortion there “was one of the most callous and insulting experiences we have ever endured.”

Read the full Op-Ed at The Washington Post.


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