Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) received agreement from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday to submit to the congressional record a letter Durbin once wrote that demanded an end to "abortion on demand."
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on American life post-Roe v. Wade, Lee pointed out that Democratic members of the committee who support abortion rights once held positions that supported conclusions reached by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
"Members of this committee, including some who are now attacking the Dobbs decision, once shared [pro-life] views," Lee noted. "So, Mr. Chairman, as I wrap up my remarks, I ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a copy of a letter that you wrote on August 4, 1989."
"Without objection, I thank Sen. Lee," Durbin responded.
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The letter to which Lee referred was correspondence Durbin sent in August 1989 in response to someone who wrote him sharing their opinion on abortion.
Durbin responded by stating abortion views that are widely different from those he holds today, even expressing support for the overturning of Roe.
I believe we should end abortion on demand, and at every opportunity I have translated this [belief] into votes in the House of Representatives. I am opposed to the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions, and will continue to support amendments to prohibit the funding of elective abortions for federal employees and Medicaid recipients. Also, notwithstanding the result in Webster, I continue to believe the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Durbin released a statement describing a post-Roe America as a "grim reality."
How did Durbin respond?
At the end of the hearing, Durbin explained why he ultimately changed his position on abortion, invoking a personal story in which two female victims opened up to him about their stories of sexual abuse.
"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.