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Senator Michael Bennet wants federal abortion rights protections, and he's concerned about US democracy

The U.S. Capitol
J. Scott Applewhite

We recently heard from US Senator Michael Bennet in conversation with Rocky Mountain Community Radio's Gavin Dahl. Now, we bring you the second part of that interview in which Sen. Bennet discusses federal efforts to protect abortion rights and his concerns about our democracy.

Gavin Dahl, Rocky Mountain Community Radio: The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, you and quite a few Democratic colleagues have introduced legislation called the Freedom to Travel for Healthcare Act, to protect the right to cross state lines, to seek reproductive healthcare. How exactly are you trying to protect women with this bill?

Senator Michael Bennet: You know, this is the first time in American history that a fundamental constitutional right has been stripped from the American people, and it's a tragedy for our society, it's a tragedy for women all over this country, and we can't have this ruling be the last word.

We've got to elect people to Congress and to state legislatures to make sure that a woman's right to choose is protected. You know, the Supreme Court didn't ban abortion, but they overturned Roe v. Wade, and there are states around the country that have banned abortion, but that's not enough. They're now trying to pass laws that would make it illegal for women to go from one state to another to access abortion services. Think about that for a second. I mean, the idea that they would have law enforcement chasing women down. This bill would simply say that states can't do that.

And it certainly seems to me that if you look at the commerce clause and understand anything about the constitution, that such a law would be unconstitutional, but I would also say we should ask ourselves for a moment what it means. If we turn into a society where elected politicians are passing laws to restrain women from moving from one place in America to another place in America.

There are hard feelings on both sides of this issue, I understand that, but you know, I have always believed that this should be a decision between a woman and her doctor, not the state, not elected officials, telling them they have to carry a pregnancy to term, but now they're not even just saying that, they're saying we are gonna restrict your movement, not allow you to travel outside our state. That is despicable I think.

GD: Another controversial decision from the Supreme Court last month constrains the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to limit pollution and protect public health. How significant is this rollback of the bipartisan Clean Air Act?

Sen. Bennet: It is worrisome. I mean, the decision ignores the clear authority that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA to, you know, to help keep our communities healthy and safe. And with climate change bearing down on the entire American west, the changes in Colorado over just the last decade in terms of the scale and scope of the fires that we've been having, the drought that's really dramatically affecting our farmers and our ranchers. The fact that the Colorado river has only half the water in it. The last thing we should be doing is stripping us of tools we need to be able to clean up our air and water and deal with climate pollution. So I'm not giving up.

This is another one where I think Donald Trump put on some very, very extreme people outside the mainstream of conventional American thought. I know there's some people that support that, but I think, you know, 70% of Americans support a woman's right to choose.

I think a similar number want us to deal with the climate challenges that we face, but we can't give up. We're just going to have to find other ways of doing it. I think we know we're not going to turn fossil fuels off today or tomorrow. We know that our, you know, if we can capture the fugitive methane, that results today and the production of natural gas and the transportation of natural gas, if we do everything we can to clean that up, you know, we're able to, you know, lower emissions in this country and transition over time to renewables and to nuclear, to other forms of energy that we haven't even invented yet.

You know, I believe that the United States will lead the entire world in this transition. And I'm confident that if we're honest about the challenges that we face and are straightforward about what it will look like to migrate into this new energy environment, that it will take time, but that we have to put ourselves on a path that reduces emissions and meets the climate goals in 2050, I have no doubt we can do it.

GD: You've called the West Virginia v. EPA ruling judicial malpractice. My question is, from extreme decisions by the Supreme Court stripping away constitutional rights to, you know, the insurrection in the nation's capital led by right wing extremists supporting Donald Trump. Is it your feeling that our fundamental democracy is in crisis?

Sen. Bennet: I do think that our democracy is extremely fragile and not just ours, but democracies all over the world. I view Donald Trump's election, not as the cause of all of our problems, but as a symptom of the fragile nature of our democracy, and I hope it will be a wake up call for the American people.

You know, I think that a lot of people are going to be shocked when it sinks in that a fundamental right that's been with us for 50 years has been overturned by a right wing Supreme Court, I think they're gonna be shocked. And that is the result of Donald Trump's election, which by the way, I think in part was the result of an economy in this country, including on the Western slope of Colorado. You know, basically since trickle down economics started with Ronald Reagan for 50 years, we had an economy that, you know, when it grows, it grows for the top 10%, but it doesn't grow for anybody else.

And when people start to lose a sense of opportunity, that's when someone shows up sometimes and says, "I alone could fix it, you don't need a democracy, you know, you should expect your public sector and your private sector to be hopelessly corrupt," which is what Donald Trump (said), that was the message that he gave us. And that's the way that he led the country. So I think we need to get our act together so that we don't end up, you know, with him again, as president.

And we need to create in this country, in rural America and in urban America, an economy, when it grows, it actually grows for everybody. People can see opportunities for themselves and for their families. And I have no doubt we can do it. I know we can do it. And we've got a real opportunity ahead of us now.

I mean, look at what's happened in the world today, we had Trump elected here, we've seen strong men elected in other places around the world as well, but we've also seen Putin invade Ukraine and get his nose smashed as a result of that because his totalitarian system didn't tell him the truth about how weak his army was and how incredibly brave and effective the Ukrainian people would be at fighting back at him. So that's a huge black mark for totalitarianism.

And I think there's a realization, certainly one shared by me, that a lot of promises that we've made over the last decades about prioritizing people in the economy that wanted to make stuff as cheaply as possible in China, turned out not to be true. That means that we need to build supply chains here in our country. It means that we need to have an economy that focuses on our national defense, I think, and figuring out how to bring supply chains back to the US, and also to the Western hemisphere itself.

There's huge amounts of opportunity here. And I talked to a guy recently in Montrose who has a small manufacturing company that's competing with the Chinese. And he said to me, you know what, Michael, you know what my competitive disadvantage with China is? I said what? He said, the fact that I cannot rent a place in Montrose, that doesn't cost me more than half of my income. And I and two of my employees are having to sleep on my shop floor. You know, that's the kind of stuff we need to be focused on so that we've got an economy that people feel like they've got a productive role to play in. And I have no doubt that the United States of America can do that.