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Here’s why I’m supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act

Your Turn

Rep. Jim Langevin Guest columnist

In recent years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have embarked on a mission to out-extreme one another on the issue of abortion, weaponizing a deeply personal issue for the sake of ginning up their base to win elections.

Now, Texas has claimed the mantle, banning all abortions after 6 weeks — without exception for cases of rape or incest — before most women even know they’re pregnant.

Even more extreme is the law’s enforcement mechanism, which deputizes individual citizens to become “bounty hunters” and report their fellow Americans for “aiding and abetting” any woman they believe to be seeking an abortion. Furthermore, I was shocked that the Supreme Court allowed it to take effect, in essence abandoning decades of settled case law.

In light of this inaction by the Court — and as the conservative majority seems increasingly likely to take the extraordinary step of overturning Roe v. Wade — I have reconsidered my position on reproductive rights.

No issue has confounded me more than abortion throughout my years of public service. Both as a practicing Catholic, and after coming so close to losing my own life at age 16, I’ve gained a unique appreciation for the sanctity of life.

At the same time, I recognize that decisions about reproductive health are some of the most challenging and intimate choices women will make in their lives. In every vote I have taken on this matter, I have wrestled with these deeply personal issues.

Today, it is clear that radicalism has overtaken nuance. Faced with the reality that Roe might no longer be the law of the land in a few months, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot support a reality where extremist state legislators can dictate women’s medical decisions. At the end of the day, we have to put our trust in women.

I did not ask for this fight. When I was first elected, I made clear that I did not come to Congress to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, throughout my years of service, I have done everything in my power to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies by supporting policies like comprehensive sex education, responsible family planning, and access to contraception.

I have stood firmly against Republican efforts to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose family planning and health-care services reduce the need for women to seek abortions, and I will continue to do so.

My Republican colleagues claim to be pro-life, but they consistently vote against policies that help millions of kids and families across our country.

I have fought to expand access to health care, ensure that child care is affordable, and protect the social safety net. Through my work as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, I have championed initiatives to ensure every child can find their forever home with a safe and loving family.

I hope these policies will continue the trend of reducing the number of abortions conducted each year. But I cannot, in good conscience, sit idly by as the rightwing legislators of Texas — and a soon to be bevy of copycat states — take our country in a very dangerous direction. Nor can I cast a vote against a policy that the people of Rhode Island have already seen fit to enshrine in our state law.

As your elected representative in Congress, I carefully think through every vote that I take on your behalf. This one is no different.

I am deeply alarmed by the direction the Republican Party and the right-wing Supreme Court are headed. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I believe the consequences will be disastrous, and the already fraying fabric of our nation will tear even further.

Although I remain personally opposed to abortion, as a matter of public policy, my position has evolved. I will join as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act. And when I return to Washington, D.C., in two weeks, I will vote to codify the protections afforded by Roe into federal law.

Rep. Jim Langevin represents Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District.

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