Dingell feels leaked Roe v. Wade document will have dangerous repercussions for our democracy
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU and i'm David Fair. This week, a story from the news website Politico brought the nation to outrage and joy, depending on which side of the issue you land on. A draft of a United States Supreme Court ruling shows that, barring change, the high court will overturn the Roe versus Wade decision that legalized abortion. If it is issued as written, it's expected that 26 states will fully outlaw abortions, including Michigan. Here to discuss these matters today is 12th District Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Representative Dingell, thank you for making time.
Debbie Dingell: It's always good to talk with you. And there's so many issues that are going on, and it's important to talk about them.
David Fair: Well, not only did this draft ruling strike down Roe versus Wade, it overturns that 1992 case of Planned Parenthood versus Casey, which essentially upheld the right to legally access abortion. Every single one of the justices that have signed off on this potential decision spoke differently about it in their confirmation hearings, including its author, Justice Samuel Alito. They all said that legal precedent was key to a stable democracy, and these decisions have been made and affirmed. Yet, while the decision may be shocking to some, it's not all that surprising given the makeup of the courts and the current kind of political landscape in the country, right?
Debbie Dingell: So, I think I want to say several things as we begin this discussion. First of all, this was a leaked opinion. It is not final, and we don't know what the final opinion will look like. Many of us believed that, given who these justices were, that they might likely vote the way they apparently did when they took the initial round before this opinion was voted. So, they gave very contradictory testimonies, as you say, at the Senate hearings. Susan Collins has as much as said that she was lied to in those hearings. And Lisa Murkowski has said that her confidence in the judiciary is very low right now. And I think that many of us do have to wonder if there are men and women on the Supreme Court--when this is done, remember, it's not final--if they did lie under oath when they testified at the confirmation. What I'm really concerned about is how people not just here and the consequences of this decision overruling what's been rule of law for 50 years. I do believe in separation of church and state. I think this is one of the most difficult issues any woman has to deal with. I can't believe we're going to go backwards with something and it opens the door. But people have to have content in their government, in their vote, in the courts, in the three equal branches of government, the system of checks and balances. What happened this week has really shaken many, many things and continued to contribute to the fear and division that's threatening democracy.
David Fair: Well, the decision, if it should stand, would return the right to determine legality of abortion to the state. Now, Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer is among the number of governors around the country trying actively to secure legal access to abortion through their state supreme courts. What, if any, action is Congress permitted to take should it want to restore abortion rights, should this leaked decision stand?
Debbie Dingell: So, the House has already passed a bill that would have put into law Roe versus Wade. The Senate has to act and do the same. Now, Senator Schumer says that they will take a vote next week on the bill. The bill that we passed in the House would have codified it. The Senate is scheduled to vote next Wednesday, but no one thinks that the votes...the bill that passed, by the way, was the Woman's Health Protection Act. People are, because there is a filibuster in the United States Senate and anything requires 60 votes, it's very unlikely that that is going to pass. I think, hopefully, people understand that elections have consequences. We've got to..I think, David, what worries me more than anything, look, this is the hardest decision a woman has to make. And yet, I deeply believe that this is a decision between a woman, her doctor, her faith, and her partner. Hopefully, there are women, we need to remember, that are having to make difficult decisions because they have been subject to sexual violence and rape. Now, this is never easy. I don't care who you are for that decsion to make, but people that are well-off, people who are lucky or will have options, people who don't have access to contraception, to regular doctor care, or don't have health insurance, are going to be the ones that are going to be at greater risk in all ways.
David Fair: Those who oppose abortion and have been working towards overturning the Roe decision for decades feel as though they are finally getting a just ruling--potentially. There are a good number within your district. There are likely many listening this morning. What conversations are you having with those on both sides of the issues among your constituency?
Debbie Dingell: Well, I have a district that...I love my district because there are a lot of people that have different opinions. Clearly, what I heard, I think on the first night, women were so upset that the clock was being turned back. I mean, many other people were very...the LGBT community is very worried about whether it's going to roll back so many things that they've gained, including marriage, because of the way that the opinion was written. And I have talked to my friends that are Catholic women who many of them believe, like I do, that it's a person's individual decision. I could never have an abortion. I wanted a baby very badly, but it's an individual's right to choose. It's that person's faith. Even the Pope has said people need to have compassion and empathy. It's hard. And there's some that feel very strongly. And, you know, these are really difficult issues, and I'm having all of those conversations. But I think that, quite frankly, the bulk of the conversations I've had with everybody, men and women, was, intellectually, that people had said this could happen. Now that it's here, what does it mean? How is it going to harm people? Who is it going to hurt the most? How are we going back? It's taken so long to make, to gain, the successes that we have for so many things. How is the clock going to be turned back so seriously and strictly? And I'll tell you the other thing. I said it before, and I'm really worried about is people's loss of confidence in their government.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with 12th District Congressional Representative Debbie Dingell. And along the loss of trust in the decades since the Roe decision, a number of religious organizations and institutions have poured lobbying money and influence to support candidates and elected officials that would work toward an abortion ban. You mentioned you believe in a separation of church and state. Do we have that appropriate separation today?
Debbie Dingell: You know, it's funny because I've been doing a lot of research. I think that we have tried very hard to keep that that way. I found a Barry Goldwater quote that, um, who worried about this decades ago. Uh, I believe, uh, I mean, that is one of the dangers here now that if we do roll back Roe versus Wade, we are going to enter into a very dangerous era of church and state being intermingled. I mean, I think Joe Biden as a Catholic and has gone to church more than any recent president--he does go every Sunday--is someone that works very hard. You know, all of us who have a faith or are religious share the same values. But this country, when it was founded, was escaping religious persecution. And we cannot take any of the freedoms we have in our democracy right now, David--freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, due process--for granted because all of them are under attack. And this court ruling can be interpreted and set precedent for far more broader things. So, this is, quite frankly, very concerning interest in what it does for women's health.
David Fair: Should this potential ruling stand, then we really have to think about dealing with some of the coming realities. There's going to be more children to take care of. As it stands now, the foster care system is underfunded and overstressed. The process of adoption is long and strenuous in the U.S., and the most in-demand adoptive babies are white. That's going to leave a lot of kids in precarious and potentially dangerous situations and have an impact between the races in this country. How do you plan to address those issues?
Debbie Dingell: Well, first of all, I'm someone that thinks we need to think about compassion and empathy. And I do find it frequently ironic that people who say that they care don't care about making sure that mother gets prenatal care, don't care about once that baby is born, that they have access to health care. They have someone we all know, the 0 to 3 years are the most critical. Many of these children don't have access to good nutrition. They don't have someone to take care of them. We didn't even extend the earned child tax credit. We have a moral obligation to take care of our children, and that is something I would encourage. What I don't want is to go into a war right now, though, I fear that we're going to a different kind of war than what we're seeing in Ukraine. But I do think we have responsibilities. They're just things that we should do for anybody that lives in our communities, and our children or our future. 25% of the population, but 100% in the future. I'd like to see the same people who are strident on this issue, care about making sure that they are safe and fed and healthy and have access to health care and child care.
David Fair: You talk about and the potential of an upcoming ideological war where many contend overturning Roe versus Wade is just a beginning, that reversing that precedent would potentially lead us to bans on the right to access to birth control, to same sex marriage, among other issues. What manner of action is going to be necessary in the immediate and longer-term future for you and your congressional colleagues to take that on?
Debbie Dingell: Well, as I said, we've already done to protect women's health care rights. Again, you can't get it passed in the Senate. I really hope. I mean, people are very concerned about what could happen and how things could be rolled back. Our government has no business in telling a doctor what medicine, what surgery, what they can prescribe anybody. These are individual people's privacy and liberties. And I hope people think about it, even as you're asking me this question today. And I know that I have friends in the LGBT community who are very worried about how they could become targeted for hate again. That they could be...I mean, they still do experience discrimination. But what's going to happen to them is going to be rolled back. Will marriages that are now legal be declared invalid? I've had all of those discussions this week, David. People are frightened. We are going to have to try to codify as much as...you know, this is a land of the rule of the law. Some of that rule of law has been interpretations by the Supreme Court. And where there are questions, we are probably going to have to learn how we codify and try to get the votes, so that we can codify these issues that you are raising right now, which is why people's votes matter.
David Fair: Prior to this leak earlier this week, there had been much speculation that Republicans were going to win back both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in the upcoming midterm elections. And that perhaps this is the platform that will give Democrats an opportunity to hold on to control of both of those chambers. Are you looking at it in a political way? Are you looking at it as potentially an inspiration for a change in direction of the upcoming elections?
Debbie Dingell: So, I've never been anyone that said we're going to lose the House. I think we're going to have competitive elections this year. I think that this is an issue that people will think about and should think about and may energize some who are just think their vote doesn't matter. But I also think we need to continue to talk about the hate and division that's dividing this country and to look at that, talk about what we have delivered. COVID is still going to be real. The aid that has been delivered. And, quite frankly, we've got to talk about inflation, increased gas prices, bringing our supply chain home. Those are all going to be issues that we need to talk about. Perhaps, people will understand. And voting rights. And I could go on with that list. Why they can't just say I'm sick of it because voting has consequences and not being involved means things happen that shake your world upside down.
David Fair: Well, thank you for spending time with us today and sharing your perspective on this matter. And there will be more conversations to come.
Debbie Dingell: Thank you, David. Be safe. Be well.
David Fair: That is Debbie Dingell representing the 12th Congressional District but, under redrawn political maps, will run for reelection in the new sixth Congressional District. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
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