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February 25, 2020

Senator Doug Jones Statement on Leader McConnell Prioritizing Abortion Votes Over Bills to Address Nationwide Maternal and Infant Health Crisis

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up critical legislation to address the maternal and infant health crisis rather than repeating votes on bills that restrict access to women’s health care.

Alabama has among the highest maternal and infant death rates in the nation and a majority of its hospitals operate at a loss and are struggling to remain open. That is why Senator Jones has been a consistent and vocal advocate on behalf of women, children, and families, and has sponsored legislation to expand access to affordable maternal care, reduce barriers to adoption, and address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes, among others.

Senator Jones released the following statement on Mitch McConnell’s plan to bring S.3275 and S.311 up for new votes today, after both failed to meet the 60-vote cloture threshold in 2019:

“By once again bringing up these divisive bills, Mitch McConnell is using the Senate’s valuable time to focus on political bills he knows will fail, rather than put to a vote legislation that would actually improve health care for women and children. In this Congress, hundreds of bills have languished on his desk, including measures that would improve election security, restore integrity to the Voting Rights Act, and lower sky-rocketing prescription drug costs for medicine like insulin and other life-sustaining drugs. Many, if not most, of these bills could pass the Senate in some form if Senator McConnell would simply let the Senate do the job that the American people sent us here to do.

“On the votes we will take this week, I will again vote against S.3275 and in favor of S.311. S.3275, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would make it illegal for any person to perform or attempt an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with a possible penalty of up to five years in prison, fines, or both. Last year, after hearing from families and physicians for whom such restrictions could have led to a mother’s death or severe disability, and reviewing the onerous restrictions included in this legislation, I firmly believe this bill would result in more dangerous pregnancies and in more difficult decisions for families and health care providers. On S.311, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, I will again vote in favor. While I think current laws in place make this legislation unnecessary, I also believe that we should affirm that every newborn deserves the highest quality of care, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. In the end, however, Mitch McConnell knows that neither of the bills he’s bringing up this week will pass, and so we will be at the exact same impasse that we were before the votes, having made no progress on the underlying health care issues at hand.

“The issue of abortion is a very difficult one and folks on either side of this issue have deeply held beliefs about it. But I think we can agree that no one is pro-abortion generally and certainly not with regard to late-term abortions. Despite all of the divisive debates, I firmly believe that if we can view these issues as part of our health care debate we will find that we can have more productive dialogues and that we have more in common on this issue than not.

“In Alabama, we know all too well the challenges women face in accessing the health care they need, and so often, our state makes headlines for further restricting care and their freedom to make choices about their own bodies. As I’ve said many times before, I believe these decisions should not be made by the state or federal government, but should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family, and her faith. Unfortunately, the public dialogue is deeply focused on using abortion as a political wedge instead of addressing the larger task of providing adequate care for mothers and babies, and strengthening families. This divisiveness makes it so much more difficult to muster the political will to tackle issues of maternal and infant mortality, our rural health crisis, to confront the racial disparities in maternal deaths, and to make it easier for loving families to adopt and foster children.

“Instead of playing politics with women’s health care, I am committed to taking on the systems that have for too long failed mothers, children and families in our country. I have sponsored more than half a dozen bills to improve health care and to make it more affordable for pregnant women and new mothers. I have successfully fought to renew the federal health insurance program that provides coverage for children in low-income families. I am leading legislation to help more families foster and adopt children. And I have made it a priority to push Alabama to expand Medicaid, which would be a critical lifeline for our struggling hospitals and would help more women in rural areas get the regular care they need to deliver a healthy child.

“If Mitch McConnell is serious about addressing important issues affecting women and babies, I am happy to point him to a stack of bills that he could bring up for votes tomorrow.”

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