Below is a transcript of Sen. Bob Hertzberg's remarks (as prepared) on SCA 10, Reproductive Freedom, delivered June 20, 2002 on the Senate Floor. Watch, listen to actual remarks by clicking on the video.
Madam Pro Tem,
I rise in support of this amendment to our State’s Constitution.
We need this amendment, in my judgment, because of the actions being taken by far-right conservatives on the Supreme Court, who are on the verge of dismantling a woman’s right to choose.
And while I think for the most part men like me would be better off listening to women than talking about this issue, I think it’s important to point out a very glaring fallacy being put forth by those seeking to strip women of their rights.
The argument they make is that the US Constitution contains no right to privacy. They say, correctly, that the word abortion itself never appears.
And the suggestion is that – because these specific words don’t appear in the Constitution – the precedents regarding a woman’s right to choose can be easily cast aside and overturned.
Here’s what they’re not telling you.
The right to privacy has been embedded in Constitutional precedent for nearly a century. It protects every one of us, in ways so fundamental we now take them for granted. And to surrender it would be the gravest of mistakes.
For example: As a parent, do you think you have the right to allow your child to learn a foreign language?
Back in 1923, Nebraska didn’t think so. That state – amid a wave of anti-immigrant xenophobia – made it against the law to teach German to children before the 9th grade.
What stopped them? The Supreme Court, citing the rights of parents and teachers to decide such things for themselves.
Let’s talk about birth control. Should the Sheriff be allowed to search your bedroom for contraceptives?
No? You can thank the Supreme Court and your right to privacy.
Anyone here today ready to let the government decide what books and magazines you can read?
Until 1969, it was the law of the land. That’s when the Supreme Court unanimously found a right to privacy fundamental to the concept of liberty contained in our Constitution.
The case had nothing to do with abortion. It was about a couple of dirty movies found in the home of a suspected bookmaker.
But the fundamental principle – of keeping government out of people’s private lives – is the very same one that protects a woman’s right to choose.
Here’s how Justice Thurgood Marshall put it:
“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”
If the court was correct in keeping the government from trying to control the minds of men, surely that same protection must apply to the bodies of women.
Today, these antiquated laws, struck down decades ago, sound ridiculous. Medieval. Orwellian.
But they weren’t thrown out simply by chance, or by the march of progress.
In every instance, they were set aside by the high court’s recognition that true human liberty only exists when people are allowed to make their own decisions about their minds and their bodies.
I would argue, Madame Pro Tem, that a woman’s right to choose is as fundamental and as basic to our liberty as the right to read and study and live the life you want.
They all rest on the same foundation. To destroy one is to threaten them all.
We stand here today because those rights are in peril, and we must do all that we can to protect them.
I ask for an aye vote.
NOTE: The measure passed, 29-8 with three of the 40 Senators not voting.