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Dingell Stands By A Woman's Right To Choose As Texas Adopts Restrictive Abortion Law

Debbie Dingell
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

The state of Texas shocked many across the country when it passed major restrictions on abortions. Many see it as a step toward the dismantling of Roe Versus Wade. 12th District Representative Debbie Dingell joined WEMU's David Fair to discuss the law, the precedent it could set, and what comes next.



Rep. Debbie Dingell

Debbie's Blog

Rep. Debbie Dingell on Facebook

NPR: "What The Texas Abortion Ban Does — And What It Means For Other States"

Roe v. Wade

Women's Health Protection Act


David Fair: [00:00:00] This is 89 one WEMU. And I'm David Fair. We're at a time and place in which women's reproductive rights may be ruled away by the United States Supreme Court. Late on Wednesday night, the court refused to block a Texas law that amounts to a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy on a five-to-four vote. Many believe it a precursor to the court overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision. It may, in fact, have already laid the blueprint for getting many of the protections contained within the Roe v. Wade law. Joining us today with a perspective from the U.S. House is 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And thank you so much for being here.

Debbie Dingell: [00:00:36] Good morning, David. How are you?

David Fair: [00:00:38] I'm doing just fine, thank you. Were you stunned by the court's decision on the restrictive Texas law that is essentially a ban on abortion?

Debbie Dingell: [00:00:47] I think many people were stunned across the country. People have just been sort of stunned talking about what are the implications, what are the options, what is it all mean for the last 24 hours.

David Fair: [00:01:00] Let's talk process for a moment. The Supreme Court, in the eyes of many, took a cowardly approach to the decision, issuing it late on Wednesday night just before midnight without ever taking testimony and out of the public eye. How do you view the manner in which the decision was made?

Debbie Dingell: [00:01:15] I think that it should have been done in a public way in the Legislature, that women of the state would have had the opportunity for input and understood the law. And even the way in which the law has been written is very difficult. It doesn't hold any state agency accountable. It also, as I've talked to lawyers, they feel that it is a very poorly written law that not only does it not help enforcement know what they're enforcing or not enforcing, but it pits people against each other. It makes women, who are in a very difficult time vulnerable, to potential blackmail. People can turn to each other in a very complex, not well-written, overturning 50 years of rule of law.

David Fair: [00:02:01] There are other states watching. And where there are Republican majorities, you can be rest assured, similar measures will be introduced and passed. You are a Democrat and have clearly stated your support for Roe v. Wade and the protections it provides. How do you view the message that the Supreme Court just sent to the women of the United States?

Debbie Dingell: [00:02:18] Well, I think that we have to pay attention to it. As you said, several states are already weighing very similar laws. Top officials in Arkansas, South Dakota, and Florida announced that they want to replicate the Texas citizen enforcement scheme for their own laws. David, I think this subject is one of the most difficult to deal with. It is an attack on the reproductive rights of millions of women, and it's unconstitutional. But I believe the decisions that reproductive health, which are difficult and challenging, should be made between the woman, her health care provider, and her faith. And women need to be able to make that decision.

David Fair: [00:03:00] You know, a lot of people view this as males trying to take control over women's reproductive self-determination. But there are plenty of women who disagree with Roe v. Wade and stand ardently opposed to abortion. For them, it's about protecting the life of the unborn, a life they say is every bit as valuable as that of the mother or anybody else walking the planet. So how do you respond to them?

Debbie Dingell: [00:03:24] What I tell them is that this is a very personal decision. I do not have the right to tell another woman. And I don't want to go back to some of the gruesome scenes that we used to see where mother and child were being endangered. I think this is the most personal decision a woman can ever make. I know what mine would be, but I don't believe that I have a right to get to make that decision for another woman. It's her. It's her decision. It's with her husband if she's married. Her boyfriend. Who's ever at her health care provider. Many times, there are some issues early on that endanger the child or the baby and their faith.

David Fair: [00:04:10] Our conversation with Michigan's 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell continues on Eighty-Nine one WEMU. President Joe Biden and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have both condemned the Texas law and the Supreme Court decision. I've not seen anything from the White House on what it may do. Speaker Pelosi yesterday announced that she does plan to bring up legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that protects the right to choose. And she plans to do so as soon as the House returns from recess this month. In what manner will she seek to accomplish that? Do you know?

Debbie Dingell: [00:04:42] Well, we have not gotten the details. This has all just happened. But I think she will try to move very quickly to bring up a bill that would codify Roe versus Wade. David, I'm not someone that sugarcoats. I think will pass the House very narrowly. I think it'll be a very difficult decision for many, but it is a very uphill battle in the Senate.

David Fair: [00:05:09] So, let's consider the Women's Health Protection Act as it is referred to. It, as you mentioned, has the votes to pass the House bill would almost certainly hit a wall in the Senate. There are two pro-choice Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine. But that doesn't get Democrats to 60 to overcome filibuster rules. So...

Debbie Dingell: [00:05:29] I'm not sure that every Democrat in the Senate would vote for it either. We've seen many times this year.

David Fair: [00:05:34] And doesn't it just render the Pelosi strategy empty then?

Debbie Dingell: [00:05:38] I don't think it's empty. I think that if, you know, you make progress, or you move things along by getting people to act, by raising the issue, I think a lot of women are simply stunned. I mean, even conservatives who oppose abortion rights are saying that the Texas law is a terrible vehicle to advance this cause. So, I think this is going to be a discussion. This is not an easy discussion for anybody. I want to make that. I mean, it is for some, but this is a very hard, difficult decision. It is the most personal decision a woman has to make. And it's women's health care. Women need to have access to complete and total health care. And people have been afraid that this is what was going to happen, that they would try to reverse Roe versus Wade, which has been codified, as I said, for over 50 years. And it's taking a fall, which has so many horrible issues already. I think this has been one of the worst weeks I remember in my service since being in the Congress and just causing unconstitutional chaos.

David Fair: [00:06:50] Once again, we're talking with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. She represents the 12th District here in Michigan. And this is 89 one WEMU. I'm just curious, Representative Dingell. Obviously, you are taking the matters into consideration. I'm wondering has there been strong response from your constituency since the Supreme Court ruling late Wednesday night?

Debbie Dingell: [00:07:12] You know, it was a 24 hour period. I'm close to many women. I'm not saying this morning everybody doesn't have to get on the phone and call. I think people were still just kind of discerning what had happened yesterday and didn't understand the full impact of it. And I know I will be hearing very strongly, and I do mean very strongly, because people on this issue have very strong feelings from both sides. And I expect that that will be added to the intensity of what's already been an intense week. I think, sometimes, people don't know my poor kids that worked the phones and do the mail just to see a lot of intense, passionate hate mail, again, the last couple of weeks. And I suspect we'll see that again, David.

David Fair: [00:08:04] And I was going to mention that there are certainly anti-abortion constituents in the 12th District who are ecstatic about the ruling, and you represent them as well. And they would like to see similar legislation passed here in Michigan. Do you anticipate that they will reach out to you as well? And I guess it comes in that form of hate mail.

Debbie Dingell: [00:08:22] I hear from them regularly, not even when this has happened. They have strong opinions. I should listen to them. That's my job is to listen to everybody. I do get regular mail from them. I get regular mail from many young women who have strong feelings. I try to talk to them. So, I know that this is going to intensify. I just simply know it.

David Fair: [00:08:53] You touched on this, but I want to revisit it more specifically. There was a time not so long ago when attacks on abortion clinics, providers, and those seeking the services of them were regularly happening. We've seen those who feel empowered storm our state Capitol in Lansing, fully armed. We watched as the U.S. Capitol came under attack from insurrectionists. Should clinics, doctors providing abortions, and women seeking them, once again, fear for their safety because there may be some who feel empowered by the highest court in our land?

Debbie Dingell: [00:09:23] You know, David, I want to expand upon that. At the beginning of August, I actually felt like I was having a calm couple of weeks I was out, I was seeing people and people were, you know, they disagreed, but they were nice. The increase in threats, death threats, hate rhetoric that has occurred in the last couple of weeks just makes me so scared for this country. And I think we all need to try to take a deep breath. The fear and the hatred that is dividing this country. We can talk to each other. We have different perspectives, we have different opinions. That's what makes this country great. But the way the violence, the level of violence that we are starting to see in cities, the way that we think we can talk to each other, the things that we put on social media, and quite frankly, the way we can call an office and leave filthy, disgusting, revulse language and threaten to kill someone is just simply unacceptable. And think about it, if you've got a young staffer that's answering those phone calls, my kids were so demoralized last Friday, and that's not who we are in this country. Freedom of speech is one of our most basic rights. Can't we talk to each other civilly and listen to each other, agree, disagree agreeably? I mean, I really worry. I have before this happened. I was already very deeply concerned and feeling, quite frankly, down, and this has intensified those feelings.

David Fair: [00:10:59] I thank you for the time and the perspective today, and we'll look forward to perhaps a more positive conversation next Friday.

Debbie Dingell: [00:11:05] Thank you, David. Be safe and happy Labor Day.

David Fair: [00:11:08] That is 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn representing portions of Washtenaw County. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR Station, Eighty-Nine one, WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at

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