June 25, 2022

Defending Reproductive Freedom

Yesterday’s outrageous ruling from the far-right packed Supreme Court jeopardizes the health of millions of women around our nation and their ability to participate as full and equal members of our society. The Supreme Court has thrown aside the Constitution and is instead forcing its ideological beliefs down the throats of the American people. This is a results-driven ruling, not a rule of law decision, and it undermines the Court’s legitimacy. It not only overturns the law of our land that has been in place for almost fifty years – it also flies directly in the face of the will of our country. The American people don’t want elected officials interfering in their most personal, private decisions. 

And this is just step one of the anti-choice, far-right’s plan. Next, they are going to try to secure a majority in Congress that will pass a national law banning the right to choose – and make abortions illegal. Such a national law would override Maryland state law codifying the protections guaranteed under Roe v. Wade – which dates back to 1991. A concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas affirming the opinion of the Court further suggests that yesterday's ruling should prompt a reexamination of other constitutional rights that have been on the books for years. That includes the right to access contraception and the right to marry whom you love.

Let’s be clear: this action is the premeditated outcome of years of plotting by the right-wing legal movement and the Republican Party. But we cannot waver in our commitment to protecting reproductive rights. The Congress must act now to protect women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, and I’ll be fighting with everything I’ve got to do that. We must mobilize the country and win the votes to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Keeping Our Communities Safe

In the wake of the devastating shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and right here in Maryland, the American people have been calling for action on gun safety. This week, we took a modest but meaningful step forward to do just that with the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This legislation will make our communities safer by funding state red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals; closing the “boyfriend loophole” so domestic abusers are barred from having a gun; making gun trafficking a federal crime; and toughening penalties for those who make illegal “straw” purchases. It also includes additional resources for mental health services in schools and communities. I was glad to vote for this bill this week and see it signed into law this morning.

But make no mistake: we have a lot more work to do on gun safety legislation in Congress. I’m very proud that the Maryland state legislature has taken action over several decades to pass meaningful firearm regulations to reduce gun violence in our state. We’ve closed the gun show loophole; we have universal background checks and a red flag law; we don’t allow the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons; and we require a permit to purchase a handgun. These are just a few of the important regulations that have helped keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

But Maryland is not an island. Over half of the traced guns recovered in crimes committed in Maryland were purchased in other states. Without robust national gun safety laws, all of us in Maryland are more vulnerable. If we want to end these mass shootings and confront the daily toll of gun violence, it can’t just be a one state approach. We need national legislation modeled after the meaningful reform we’ve enacted in Maryland. So while the enactment of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was a small step forward, we must continue the fight to pass comprehensive national gun safety laws. 

The urgency to act on this issue continues. This week’s Supreme Court ruling from the six Republican-appointed justices on the Court overturning a New York State gun law is not only a misreading of the Constitution, it’s going to make Americans less safe. Maryland is one of seven states in the nation that has a law on the books that’s similar to the one struck down in New York, and the Supreme Court’s decision means many more individuals can carry concealed weapons. I look forward to consulting with Maryland Attorney General Frosh to review our options to prevent a surge of people carrying hidden weapons in our state.

We have a long fight ahead to protect reproductive freedom, enact robust gun safety legislation nationwide, and tackle so many other challenges facing our communities. But I know that the overwhelming majority of Marylanders and Americans support reproductive freedom and common-sense gun safety provisions. I am confident that if we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, we will prevail. That spirit has guided the progress we’ve already made, and that spirit will continue to guide our progress into the future.






               Chris Van Hollen