In response to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as US Attorney General, Dr. Willie Parker, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement:
“The nomination of the senator from my home state, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), for attorney general is a threat to the safety of reproductive health care providers and the patients we care for. His extreme record of hostility towards reproductive rights stands in the way of his ability to protect the constitutional right to abortion and the safety of patients and providers. As a physician from Alabama who provides abortions, I have seen firsthand how his brand of politics endangers the health and safety of women and families. This is unacceptable for any officeholder, but especially worrisome for someone who is about to become the chief law enforcement official of our great country.
My colleagues and I serve our patients with compassion so that they can make their own decisions regarding their health, their families, and their futures, but we work in an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment every day. In 2015, clinics around the country, including in Alabama, saw a frightening increase in hate speech, death threats, and violence. Sadly, violence against clinics has only spiked since the election in November, according to the National Abortion Federation.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is the federal department that most affects the safety of abortion providers and patients, and its authority on these issues is far-reaching. As attorney general, Sessions will be responsible for directing work of the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Providers, including its resources and priority status within the DOJ. Furthermore, Sessions’ record clearly calls into question his ability to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and to fairly prosecute federal crimes targeting abortion providers.
Senator Sessions’ long history of opposing reproductive rights in Congress demonstrates his contempt for reproductive autonomy and for the medical professionals who provide reproductive health care. He has repeatedly voted against an amendment that would prevent perpetrators of violent crimes against abortion providers from evading fines by filing for bankruptcy. He also opposed the creation of a “Women’s Health Care and Clinic Security and Safety Fund” that would provide safety measures for reproductive health providers and clinics. In addition, he has made troubling comments about sexual assault and voted against protections for LGBTQ individuals. Based on his record as a lawmaker, we are profoundly concerned with Senator Sessions’ ability to protect reproductive health care providers and our patients in the role of attorney general.
Finally, we have deep concerns regarding how Sessions would treat communities of color—communities that are already targeted by restrictive reproductive health laws. Being personally familiar with recent Alabama history, I am keenly aware of how Sessions’ political legacy is marred by racism. As reproductive health care providers, we are dedicated to helping women and men exercise their right to lives of autonomy, dignity, self-determination, and opportunity for all people. Sessions would not protect these fundamental human rights. He is simply not fit to serve as the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement official.”