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Senator Patty Murray
Credit: Office of Sen. Patty Murray

‘We cannot let this stand.’ Sen. Patty Murray reacts to SCOTUS Roe v. Wade leak

A leaked draft opinion shows a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices support overturning the Roe v. Wade decision and its federal guarantees for abortion rights. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) called the situation a "five-alarm fire."

In a conversation with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm today, Murray started by sharing her reaction when she heard the news.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Senator Patty Murray: I have been worried for a very long time that this decision was coming. All indications were that we were headed in this direction, but it didn't matter. When I heard the news, it was a gut punch. It was my country, for the first time since I was in college many years ago, taking away the rights of women to make their own health-care choices. All I could think of was, “Oh my gosh, for the first time ever, we are going to see mothers have more rights than their daughters in the United States of America.” We cannot let this stand.

Kim Malcolm: As you indicated, people already sensed that Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned by the court this session. But the Supreme Court is not the only place where abortion rights can be protected. What could Congress do at this point?

What Congress can do is codify Roe v. Wade into legislative language, so the Supreme Court cannot undo it. That is what we are trying to have a vote on next week because we need to show everyone in this country where their elected official stands.

It was just a couple of months ago that the Senate passed on a chance to protect those rights when they voted against moving forward with the Women's Health Protection Act. Senate Majority Leader Schumer says he will hold another vote on abortion rights, but the composition of the Senate is still the same. What is the purpose of such a vote if it's going to fail?

Two months ago, we knew there was a possibility. Now we know it's a reality. Every member of the Senate has to make it very clear where they stand to the people that they represent. We need to have that vote so we all know. Our constituents need to know. Everyone needs to know.

Not all Americans are of one mind on this issue. I'm wondering what you would say to your constituents who would be happy to see Roe v. Wade overturned this year?

I certainly have been in the Senate long enough to hear the voices in the Senate who have worked day in and day out to get us to this point, where they want to take away the right of every woman to make her own health-care choice. Here's where I stand. I believe that every woman, everyone, should make their own health-care decision. It should not be made by extreme Republicans, elected officials, or by the Supreme Court.

This is a personal decision that people have to make on their own, with their own faith, and their own doctor, and their own family. Why? Because it impacts their health. It impacts their economic situation. It impacts their future. It should not be dictated by anyone else.

You've said in the past that this is highly personal for you. Can you talk about that, and who you might be thinking of today?

I'm thinking of all the young women out there who have grown up believing that this is not something that they have to worry about, that if something happens to them, a situation that they didn't expect to find themselves in, they can make a decision for themselves. That's about to be ripped away by the Supreme Court, and that, to me, is frightening.

This is especially impactful on lower-income women, on women of color, women who don't have access to the rich charges that some people will be able to pay in order to get their health-care coverage. Why do I know this? Because I grew up when Roe v. Wade was not the law of the land. It did not become the law of the land until I was in college. Abortions are still going to happen. Young women will still find themselves in a situation. The wealthy women will have a place to go, and a doctor to take care of them and will be safe. The ones who aren't won’t.

You represent Washington state, and abortion rights are protected here in state law. How would this potential ruling impact us here?

I think it's really important for the people of Washington state to know that we have good state laws. I'm grateful for that. But what we're seeing here at the federal level now doesn't end with a Supreme Court decision. Republicans here in the Senate are already writing legislation to have a federal ban on abortion. That will impact Washington state if that were ever to pass.

Secondly, our health care in Washington state is going to be impacted by states around us who take away the right of women to have an abortion and to get the kind of care they need, because they will come to our state. They will inundate our health-care system, making it harder for the people of Washington to be able to get the care that they need, because they’ll be in competition with people from other states.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.