Lincoln Chafee on Abortion

Libertarian presidential challenger; Independent RI Governor; Republican Senator (1999-2007)


Support right to woman's personal reproductive decisions

The freedoms granted to America in our Constitution should never be abridged. I strongly support a woman's right to make her own personal reproductive decisions.
Source: 2016 presidential campaign website Chafee2016.com , Jun 4, 2015

A woman should make her own reproductive decisions

We believe in personal freedom. We do not want the government controlling our personal lives, or our most personal decisions.

Believing in freedom, as we do, we don't think it's the role of government to pass judgment on a relationship between two consenting adults, regardless of their orientation. Believing in freedom, we believe a woman should make her own reproductive decisions.

Source: 2012 Democratic National Convention speech , Sep 6, 2012

Emotional & divisive abortion debate takes over other issues

I had seen firsthand how the divisive and highly emotional abortion issue could literally take over a debate focused on something else entirely. In 1985, my home state convened a constitutional convention to reform and improve Rhode Island government from top to bottom. It was my first elective office. Abortion quickly became the central issue. A majority of my fellow delegates voted to prohibit abortion in Rhode Island. It was all for naught, given that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land; but reason had no place in the debate.

One of our hundred delegates got down on his knees in the House chamber, clasped his hands, and beseeched us: Save the babies! Save the babies!

Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p.160-161 , Apr 1, 2008

Opposed Alito because he didn't respect right to privacy

I voted against seating Judge Alito on the US Supreme Court. After reading his decisions on the Court of Appeals and studying his testimony in the Judiciary Committee, I opposed Judge Alito on three counts:
  1. I feared he would not respect a woman's constitutional right to privacy as it concerns her own body;
  2. that he would not uphold the commerce clause as the constitutional protection laws;
  3. and that he would vote to expand executive powers at every opportunity.
I had cast the only Republican vote against the war in Iraq, and now I voted against seating Samuel Alito. That made for considerable political trouble for me back home in Rhode Island.
Source: Against the Tide, by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, p.164 , Apr 1, 2008

Embryonic stem cell research could help with many diseases

Q: Do you favor federal subsidies for embryonic stem cell research?

CHAFEE: I voted for a bill for federal funding. I believe it could help people with Parkinsonís, Alzheimerís, cancer, and spinal cord injury.

WHITEHOUSE: There should be federal subsidies for embryonic stem cell research because of its enormous promise. Itís outrageous that Bush has used this as its one veto; to try to eliminate this research is shameful. It shows the Republicans being driven by ideology rather than science.

Source: 2006 RI Senate debate, by RIBA and WPRI-12 , Sep 13, 2006

Leaving abortion to states means only wealthy have choice

Q: What if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?

CHAFEE: I have consistently voted against any federal attempt to ban womenís reproductive freedom & choices. If itís left to the states, then only wealthy women will have access to abortions, if they have the resources to travel, whereas poor women would have to resort to the old days of difficult decisions.

WHITEHOUSE: I am pro-choice. I firmly believe that family planning decisions should be private, and that thereís no role for government intrusion in those decisions. Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land by almost any legal standard. But unfortunately what weíre seeing in Washington now, by Republicans, is a concerted & deliberate attempt to pack the Supreme Court with a particular ideology to try to undo rights that have been very long-settled, indeed settled by justices who were overwhelmingly appointed by Republican presidents. If Roe v. Wade is overturned I think those rights should be recognized at the state level.

Source: 2006 RI Senate debate, by RIBA and WPRI-12 , Sep 13, 2006

The real potential for cures is in the embryonic stem cells

Q: What about embryonic stem cell research?

CHAFEE: Every scientist is saying that the real potential is in the embryonic stem cells. Thatís where the real potential is for the cures for Alzheimerís, Parkinsonís, spinal cord injuries, and cancer. If the US does not fund that research, itís going to go elsewhere. Some other country is going to take advantage and be in the forefront of solving some of these diseases and curing some of these diseases. Many conservatives did vote for the stem cell bill. Laffey said he would vote against it, thatís hypocritical.

LAFFEY: Itís not hypocritical. I felt it was the wrong business lines. Senator Chafee mentioned one scientist. Itís not every scientist. Itís very few, quite frankly. In the end, the real progress will be made because the problem with embryonic stem cell research is the rejection rate that theyíre finding tumors and all kinds of problems in animals and rats and they havenít made it to humans yet and I donít think they will.

Source: 2006 R.I. Republican Senate Primary debate on WPRI , Aug 24, 2006

Opposed the Alito nomination on 3 issues, not litmus test

Q: What are you unwilling to accept in a Supreme Court judicial nominee? A: On the last appointment, Alito was replacing O?Connor, a key swing vote on the court. This was a big decision, who is going to replace O?Connor, this key moderate on the Supreme Court. I looked closely at issues and watched Alito to testify in the hearings. Three issues were important to me. The commerce clause in the constitution that has a lot to do of how we do our environmental laws in particular and clean water was just ruled on by the Supreme Court in kind of a haphazard way but under the commerce clause of the constitution. Secondly, the expansion of executive powers and that concerns me greatly. Under the constitution, Bush has used under article 2, section 2 of the constitution that heís the commander in chief to expand executive powers. That concerns me greatly and it was addressed in Alitoís answers. Iím a pro-choice Senator and I had concerns about Roe vs. Wade.
Source: 2006 R.I. Republican Senate Primary debate on WPRI , Aug 24, 2006

Strongly supports ďAbortion is a womanís rightĒ

Chafee voted NO on S.2549, a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities.
Source: Voted AGAINST banning overseas military base abortions , Sep 20, 2000

Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.

This bill prohibits taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions. Makes an exception for an abortion necessary to save the life of the minor. Authorizes any parent to sue unless such parent committed an act of incest with the minor. Imposes a fine and/or prison term of up to one year on a physician who performs an abortion on an out-of-state minor in violation of parental notification requirements in their home state.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This bill deals with how young girls are being secretly taken across State lines for the purpose of abortion, without the consent of their parents or even the knowledge of their parents, in violation of the laws of the State in which they live. 45 states have enacted some sort of parental consent laws or parental notification law. By simply secreting a child across State lines, one can frustrate the State legislature's rules. It is subverting and defeating valid, constitutionally approved rights parents have.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Some States have parental consent laws, some don't. In my particular State, it has been voted down because my people feel that if you ask them, "Do they want their kids to come to their parents?", absolutely. But if you ask them, "Should you force them to do so, even in circumstances where there could be trouble that comes from that?", they say no.

This bill emanates from a desire that our children come to us when we have family matters, when our children are in trouble, that they not be fearful, that they not be afraid that they disappoint us, that they be open with us and loving toward us, and we toward them. This is what we want to have happen. The question is: Can Big Brother Federal Government force this on our families? That is where we will differ.

Reference: Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act; Bill S.403 ; vote number 2006-216 on Jul 25, 2006

Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives.

Vote to adopt an amendment to the Senate's 2006 Fiscal Year Budget that allocates $100 million for the prevention of unintended pregnancies. A YES vote would expand access to preventive health care services that reduce unintended pregnancy (including teen pregnancy), reduce the number of abortions, and improve access to women's health care. A YES vote would:
Reference: Appropriation to expand access to preventive health care services; Bill S.Amdt. 244 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-75 on Mar 17, 2005

Voted NO on criminal penalty for harming unborn fetus during other crime.

Bill would make it a criminal offense to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of a violent crime. The measure would set criminal penalties, the same as those that would apply if harm or death happened to the pregnant woman, for those who harm a fetus. It is not required that the individual have prior knowledge of the pregnancy or intent to harm the fetus. This bill prohibits the death penalty from being imposed for such an offense. The bill states that its provisions should not be interpreted to apply a woman's actions with respect to her pregnancy.
Reference: Unborn Victims of Violence Act; Bill S.1019/HR.1997 ; vote number 2004-63 on Mar 25, 2004

Voted NO on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life.

S. 3 As Amended; Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Vote to pass a bill banning a medical procedure, which is commonly known as "partial-birth" abortion. Those who performed this procedure would then face fines and up to two years in prison, the women to whom this procedure is performed on are not held criminally liable. This bill would make the exception for cases in which a women's life is in danger, not for cases where a women's health is in danger.
Reference: Bill S.3 ; vote number 2003-51 on Mar 12, 2003

Voted NO on maintaining ban on Military Base Abortions.

Vote on a motion to table [kill] an amendment that would repeal the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military facilities.
Reference: Bill S 2549 ; vote number 2000-134 on Jun 20, 2000

Rated 90% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record.

Chafee scores 90% by NARAL on pro-choice voting record

For over thirty years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been the political arm of the pro-choice movement and a strong advocate of reproductive freedom and choice. NARAL Pro-Choice America's mission is to protect and preserve the right to choose while promoting policies and programs that improve women's health and make abortion less necessary. NARAL Pro-Choice America works to educate Americans and officeholders about reproductive rights and health issues and elect pro-choice candidates at all levels of government. The NARAL ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: NARAL website 03n-NARAL on Dec 31, 2003

Expand embryonic stem cell research.

Chafee signed a letter from 58 Senators to the President

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to expand the current federal policy concerning embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to be used to treat and better understand deadly and disabling diseases and conditions that affect more than 100 million Americans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and many others.

We appreciate your words of support for the enormous potential of this research, and we know that you intended your policy to help promote this research to its fullest. As you know, the Administration's policy limits federal funding only to embryonic stem cells that were derived by August 9, 2001.

However, scientists have told us that since the policy went into effect more than two years ago, we have learned that the embryonic stem cell lines eligible for federal funding will not be suitable to effectively promote this research. We therefore feel it is essential to relax the restrictions in the current policy for this research to be fully explored.

Among the difficult challenges with the current policy are the following:

We would very much like to work with you to modify the current embryonic stem cell policy so that it provides this area of research the greatest opportunity to lead to the treatments and cures for which we are all hoping.
Source: Letter from 58 Senators to the President 04-SEN8 on Jun 4, 2004

Sponsored bill for emergency contraception for rape victims.

Chafee introduced for emergency contraception for rape victims

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Prohibits any federal funds from being provided to a hospital unless the hospital provides to women who are victims of sexual assault:

  1. accurate and unbiased information about emergency contraception;
  2. emergency contraception on her request; and
  3. does not deny any such services because of the inability of the woman to pay.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This bill will help sexual assault survivors across the country get the medical care they need and deserve. It is hard to argue against this commonsense legislation. Rape--by definition--could never result in an intended pregnancy. Emergency contraception is a valuable tool that can prevent unintended pregnancy. This bill makes emergency contraception available for survivors of sexual assault at any hospital receiving public funds.

Every 2 minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the US, and each year, 25,000 to 32,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. 50% of those pregnancies end in abortion.

By providing access to emergency contraception, up to 95% of those unintended pregnancies could be prevented if emergency contraception is administered within the first 24 to 72 hours. In addition, emergency contraception could also give desperately needed peace of mind to women in crisis.

The FDA recently made EC available over the counter for women 18 years of age and older. Despite the ideologically driven agenda against this drug, the research has been consistently clear--this drug is safe and effective for preventing pregnancy. Women deserve access to EC. For millions of women, it represents peace of mind. For survivors of rape and sexual assault, it offers hope for healing and a tomorrow free of painful reminders of the past.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.

Source: Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act (S.3945) 06-S3945 on Sep 26, 2006

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