A dispute over abortion restrictions in the Senate’s human trafficking bill and with it the continued delay of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation is part of the “war on women,” according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill.
“It feels like every time we turn around and start making progress — whether it’s on passing a budget a couple of years ago, or whether it’s today on trying to pass this trafficking bill — that women have to take a step backwards in order for the Republicans to accept us moving forward,” Murray told reporters Wednesday, flanked by the heads of several women’s rights groups and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
“I call that a war on women,” Murray said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will not take up Lynch’s confirmation until it finishes work on the human trafficking bill, which Democrats are currently filibustering due to their opposition to a provision blocking abortion funding.
“It’s pretty absurd to say that we can’t work on both of these issues at once,” Murray said, arguing that Republicans can simply do what Democrats are demanding by passing the bill without the abortion language and confirming Lynch.
O’Neill, the head of NOW, called the effort to keep the abortion restrictions in the trafficking bill and the Lynch delay “the latest, dramatic escalation of the Republican leadership’s war on women.”
“Mitch McConnell needs to stop playing politics with women’s healthcare and with women’s advancement in this country,” O’Neill said.
Baldwin further decried McConnell’s “unbelievable” actions.
“Sen. McConnell is holding her nomination hostage at a time when our nation is facing serious terrorist threats, serious criminal threats and an urgent and ongoing need to see that our nation’s civil rights laws are being enforced,” Baldwin said. “This egregious delay is all in the name of scoring political points, by catering to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.”
Marcia Greenberger, president of the National Women’s Law Center, called the abortion provision in the bill an “attack on women’s health” and argued that Lynch has been a champion prosecutor of human trafficking crimes.
Also participating in Wednesday’s press conference were Debra Ness, the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, who said women are “tired of being a political bargaining chip.” And Nancy Zirkin, the executive vice president at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the Lynch confirmation delay for the human trafficking bill, “the latest turn in what has been the most mishandled and manipulated confirmation process in memory.”
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, the executive director of MomsRising, added that moms and families “desperately need a top cop in America” to keep people safe and protected from exploitation and discrimination. She urged the Senate to move on Lynch’s confirmation.