William Barr Dodges Questions on Abortion Rights and the Affordable Care Act
For Immediate Release: Jan. 16, 2019 (Updated: Jan. 16, 2019, midnight)
Barr refused to say if he would defend Roe and the Affordable Care Act if confirmed as attorney general
WASHINGTON — During the two-day confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr evaded questions on whether he’d protect access to standard health care — including the right to abortion as recognized in Roe v. Wade. Barr’s past record and statements make clear that he does not believe in the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.
Statement from Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
I’m a doctor and I have to look at the data. William Barr's record makes clear he will not protect the right to safe, legal abortion, and he dodged additional questions in the hearing. As President of Planned Parenthood and as a physician, I am deeply concerned that Barr will be an active threat to health care access and the right to safe, legal abortion. This is about people’s lives – we need an attorney general who will give straightforward answers, uphold the Constitution, and defend the American people’s rights.
Barr dodged questions on health care again and again:
- On Roe v. Wade: Yesterday, William Barr refused to directly answer if he would defendRoe v. Wade if confirmed to be Attorney General. Instead of answering, he evaded the question, simply stating his Solicitor General “would make whatever arguments are necessary to address that.” This completely sidesteps the question and fails to account for how he, as Attorney General, would direct the Solicitor General on the matter.
- On the Affordable Care Act (ACA): The Trump-Pence administration’s previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, refused to defend most of the ACA in court. During the hearing, Barr was asked if he would continue to push Sessions’ agenda or reverse it and defend the ACA and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Barr dodged by saying he would review the previous department’s decision, giving Americans no confidence that they will be able to continue accessing lifesaving, affordable health care.
While Barr refused to give a straight answer, his record says all we need to know. When he served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, Barr:
- Stated under oath, during his confirmation hearings, “I do not believe the right to privacy extends to abortion.... Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”
- Sent a letter to the Senate opposing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), the legislation that would have codified Roe into law.
- Used the rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement, like “abortion on demand,” in letters to members of Congress.
The attorney general, as head of the Department of Justice, is charged with protecting and enforcing our nation’s laws, including a woman’s constitutional right to abortion and the ability to access healthcare. Additionally, if an abortion case comes before the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court could ask the U.S. Attorney General for the federal government’s opinion. Barr has already stated that he believes Roe v. Wade “does not have any constitutional underpinnings” and “the Roe v Wade opinion will fall.” Right now, there are 16 cases on abortion that are only one step away from the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.