[Full transcript below.]
Chair: Mr. Weiner, for five minutes.
Representative Anthony Weiner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Um, you know, let's face it, there's a broad gulf—Mr. Engle is right—on people's views of abortion, and the Hyde Amendment is one way to come to a conclusion on— I don't believe that someone should be denied a medical procedure because of their income; I don't believe that someone who is more well-to-do, who gets enormous tax breaks from the country, that we don't attach to that tax break an agreement that they won't get a certain medical procedure; I don't believe we should distribute healthcare that way; I think it's inhumane and immoral. We have this Hyde Amendment that's supposed to try to strike some kind of a middle ground, but I'm not completely happy with and members of the panel are not completely happy with.
But let's agree on what we're saying here: We are NOT codifying the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment says that there's an exemption from the restriction on abortion if a pregnancy is the result of a rape or an act of—an act of rape or incest. The bill that the sponsor would have liked to have us pass, and probably will still succeed—[reading] "a pregnancy occurs because of an act of FORCIBLE rape," changing the definition of rape, because apparently some rape is more desirable in the eyes of the maker of the bill than others.
And includes [reading] "a minor in an act of incest," so it can't be someone who's 19 and pregnant. So there's not any effort here to codify the Hyde Amendment. This is an effort to EXPAND the Hyde Amendment. And, well, frankly, someone caught him this time. But they'll work it in. They're the majority party—they can work this in in Rules Committee, so we can count on seeing this language again, expanding the Hyde Amendment.
Don't let anyone who supports this bill ever say to you, "I'm for less government regulation. Oh, there's too much government regulation." You've gotta be kidding! You can't vote for this thing and then say you're for less government regulations—the mother of ALL government regulations! This is the regulation of an individual woman in a room with her doctor AND Congressman Pitts, apparently. [somewhere in the room, a woman laughs] I mean, I can't think of a bigger government regulation, so let's agree that in one hearing last week, we're all, "Oh, we're against government regulation" and in another one this week, we're for all kinds of government regulation.
If you don't think it's a government regulation, ask a doctor who's got to try to navigate this. Here—[gestures at GOP reps] and god bless the three of you—but it's complicated stuff, because you're trying to shoehorn government into what is essentially a basic relationship that revolves around healthcare. It doesn't revolve around which funding stream is coming—of course this is complicated, of course you guys have different views of this.
And if you're a physician [looks around room]—and I, you know, you can't swing a dead cat around here without someone saying, "Oh, I'm speaking from a level of experience! I'm a doctor! Therefore I can tell you!" I mean, stop that already! The bottom line about this is: You're not any particular doctor for a particular client. I don't want anyone who's a doctor here in my operating room! You can just keep with your congressman shtick! That's better!
I mean, what this is about is a fundamental philosophical agreement—and that is that if you are [makes air quotes] "conservative," and you believe in smaller, less intrusive government, you've got to take a wild, wild philosophical bankshot to get back to supporting this bill! I don't even know how you do it! I really don't know how you can ever say you're conservative believing you should have this much government involvement in a MEDICAL decision! And a conversation!
And I do have to say this—I know we read the Constitution that first day we were here, and I'm glad we did—you have to also basically say if you support this you don't believe in a right to privacy for at least one-half of this country. And that's the bottom line.
Now some people don't! Some people believe to this day that the right to privacy, as my lawyer friends [looks around room] or people who were lawyers and portraying lawyers—the fact is that there is not an explicit right to privacy. But I think most Americans, of all political stripes, believe there's a basic right to privacy. Is there anything MORE basic, more basic than your body? Is there any more basic privacy there? Well, not according to [looks and gestures at Pitts], not according to many people. And that's the conversation here.
And if you're on the side saying, "You know what? I think government should have a limit on where they go; I think there should be a limit beyond which they should not pass," this means you do not support this bill! Bottom line! If you believe there's NO LIMIT, you can go ANYWHERE, you can get into—any personal relationship the government wants to get involved in they can…? [smacks bill lying on table in front of him] We've got a bill for you! And we're gonna have others!
But I have to tell you something. I would say to my colleagues and friends that if you're gonna wring your hands and gaze at your navel about how we reduce regulation in this country, how we [rolls eyes] "get government outta business!", try being the business of healthcare watching this debate! Try dealing with an emergency room situation where a woman is coming in there and the doctor is saying, "You know what? I believe this is a medically necessary procedure; I want to do it—but wait a minute! I gotta go through this first! [holds up the many pages of legislation] I gotta, lemme, someone get C-SPAN 9 tapes back for me so I can see if I'm allowed to do it."
There's too much government regulation in this! And I think the best thing to do is, we should say, let doctors and their patients make these decisions.
And, as far as I remember, listening to the healthcare debate, so did my Republican friends way back when LAST WEEK.
Chair: Chair thanks the gentleman. On the issue, on the issue of, uh, the unanimous consent request, uh, with that objection—
Unidentified Congressman: Mr. Chairman, was there a question in that soliloquy? Should we let our panel respond?
Chair: [laughing] Um, would one of the panelists like to respond, any of them? Mr. Johnson.
Rep. Johnson: I think you're forgetting someone, Mr. Weiner. [mispronounces wee-ner as why-ner; holds up image of dead fetus] How about this little girl here? This is from the grand jury report. Talking about the privacy of the body—what about her body? You're forgetting someone. There's another human individual, a member of the human family who's involved here. That's why it's different—
Rep. Weiner: When you say "another," Mr. Johnson, are you stipulating that the woman has rights here?
Rep. Johnson: Of course the woman has rights, including her right to life, but the unborn child is also a member of the human family.
Rep. Weiner: And, Mr. Johnson, do you think that a bunch of members of Congress should make that determination, where that line is?
Rep. Johnson: We think that the Congress makes laws for all members of the human family.
Rep. Weiner: So that's a yes. You think 435 fairly well-to-do, mostly white men should make that decision?
Rep. Johnson: I think the elected representatives of the American people should—
Rep. Weiner: —should make the decision for that woman and that child?!
Rep. Johnson: Can I finish my answer?
Rep. Weiner: It doesn't sound terribly enticing, no.