Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, detailed his change of heart on abortion laws on Tuesday after GOP members of the committee pointed out his past desire to overturn Roe v. Wade.
At the committee’s hearing on legal concerns in a post-Roe America, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), submitted a copy of a letter that Durbin wrote in 1989 in which he condemned “abortion on demand” and wrote, “I continue to believe the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed.”
“The doomsday calls from those on the left are ignoring common sense,” Lee said. “They’re ignoring what human instinct tells us about protecting the most vulnerable among us. Members of this committee, including some who are now attacking the Dobbs decision, once shared these views.”
The Supreme Court last month overturned the federal right to abortion in a case from Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, leaving it to states to set abortion laws. More than a dozen GOP-led states have since moved to ban abortion with few exceptions, though courts have blocked a number of the laws amid legal challenges.
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Durbin told the committee and the panelists that the letter and his past views on abortion were not new, but went on to explain how his mind had been changed on reproductive rights during a meeting young people in Illinois.
“I sat down with two young women who were about to turn 18 — one a victim of incest, one a victim of rape — and they told me their stories. I didn’t ask them to, but they wanted to tell me. I left that meeting with a kind of understanding that I had never had before about the complexity of the decision behind the abortion procedure,” Durbin said.
“I thought to myself, ‘As an individual member of Congress, are you ready to pass a law that applies to every woman in America?’ No. It really has to be her decision. And we can regulate it as we should, but at that point I made my break,” he added.