The following is a transcript of an interview with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, that aired on “Face the Nation” on June 25, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s now been one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade and the political dissension over abortion rights continues to grow. We’ve recently discussed the topic with Republican presidential candidates on this broadcast, but today we turn to Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, a co-chair of President Biden’s reelection bid and she joins us from El Paso. Good morning to you, Congresswoman. It’s been 50 years since 1973 and that ruling, but in that time, Congress failed to pass any protections for abortion access, even when Democrats controlled both houses even when presidents were Democrats. We’re now at this point where our CBS News polling shows 53 percent of Democrats feel as though your party isn’t doing enough on the issue of abortion. Why do Democrats think this is a winning issue for the party when they’ve not been able to deliver on it for so long?
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR: Well, Margaret, the House Democrats have passed the Women’s Health Care Protection Act. We did that both sessions of Congress the last two when we had a majority. But as you know, and as the American people know, we did not have a wide enough majority in the Senate. In the Senate because of the filibuster, the Senate has not acted on protecting access and women’s freedom to have access to abortion care. But it is really important that we look at what’s happened since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Republican controlled Supreme Court. We have seen 23 million women lose access to reproductive health care. We’ve seen 18 states enact harsh abortion bans. And we have also seen every single Republican nominee expressed support for a Federal National abortion ban. We cannot go in that direction. And that’s why these upcoming elections are critically important.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But even when there was unified control, it wasn’t delivered on. When you look at what’s happening now half of those polled by CBS say abortion access has become more restricted over the past year, as you just detailed. So we know President Biden’s taking these executive actions and orders. Why isn’t there more grassroots mobilization at the state level? If the entire point of the court ruling was that it goes back to the States?
REP. ESCOBAR: We have seen grassroots mobilization at the state level, we’ve seen stage saying–
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re saying you’re losing the argument, though.
REP. ESCOBAR: I’m sorry–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, you just detailed that state by state and many places, you’re losing that argument.
REP. ESCOBAR: Well, states are making every effort and grassroots organizations and women across the country are working to put in protections at the current state constitutional level. But the challenge that we will face should Republicans maintain control of the House and gain control of the Senate or the White House is that we would see national restrictions that are harsher and more serious than- than what we see today. So we’ve got a very- we’ve got a huge challenge on our hands, in the sense that women’s reproductive freedoms continue to be rolled back. And the only way to win that is by winning elections, both making sure that we flip the house and regain control, and that we elect a wide enough margin, a filibuster proof majority, or senators willing to lift the majority to protect women and we’ve got to maintain the White House.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was recently on this program and she said candidates aren’t telling the American people the truth, Republicans and Democrats she puts in that bucket. She said there’s, you know, there’s neither the consensus nor the votes for either party to either legalize or fully ban abortion, listen to what she said:
NIKKI HALEY SOT: So let’s be honest with the American people and say, let’s find national consensus. Let’s agree on, you know, getting rid of late-term abortion. Let’s agree on the fact that we need more adoptions. Let’s agree on the fact that we need accessible contraception. Let’s agree on the fact that mothers shouldn’t be jailed or go to, you know, get the death penalty for abortions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doesn’t she have a point, there are smaller issues related to abortion, you can find consensus on?
REP. ESCOBAR: The national consensus, Margaret, is that 80% of Americans do not agree with the overturning of Roe v. Wade–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But in terms of what you could actually get passed in Congress.
REP. ESCOBAR: Well, we again, we have Democrats passed the Women’s Health Care Protection Act in the house–
MARGARET BRENNAN: In the House. Yes only in the house.
REP. ESCOBAR: –And the challenge in the Senate is that you need a supermajority. You–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Exactly.
REP. ESCOBAR: – need 60 votes, right. Which is why we need to win elections this- next November. And furthermore, we’ve got to retain the White House because there’s only one person who will be on the ballot next November. And that’s President Biden, who has promised and committed to fighting for women’s reproductive freedom, that- make no mistake about it, as much as Nikki Haley wants to talk about finding consensus here and there. The bottom line is–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well stopping women from being prosecuted, for example, the death penalty, I mean you have to appreciate that, why not pass a law on that front?
REP. ESCOBAR: Can you imagine that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that not worth it?
REP. ESCOBAR: That’s their, that’s where they want to allow–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, she’s saying let’s pass a law to prevent that on the national level.
REP. ESCOBAR: Well, I- my perspective, and I think the vast majority of Americans’ perspective is we want the protections under Roe v. Wade restored. 80% and in fact, even so–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, 24 weeks?
REP. ESCOBAR: I’m sorry?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Protection up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. That’s your defined position. I know that’s what was in the Protection Act, but specifically, that’s what you are endorsing?
REP. ESCOBAR: Roe v. Wade essentially protects a woman’s right to access abortion. And what we are seeing in states like my own in Texas, where the rollbacks have happened and the bans are occurring is that even in cases where women’s health is at risk, politicians don’t really care about the- the health of the woman.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming on and making that case we’ll be back in a moment.