Politics

Ayanna Pressley is the only Mass. rep. who voted against extra security for Supreme Court justices. Here’s why.

“It is inexcusable that we continue to place a hierarchy on people’s safety and lives.”

The U.S. Supreme Court building is shown, May 4, 2022 in Washington. The Associated Press

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was the lone federal lawmaker from Massachusetts to vote against a bill aimed at boosting security for families of U.S. Supreme Court justices, a week after police arrested a man who threatened to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh and turned up near the justice’s home with weapons and zip ties.

Should the bill become law, the legislation would grant around-the-clock security protection for justices’ families. Justices themselves already receive 24/7 security, but the matter has received new attention over the past month as activists have staged protests outside justices’ private residences over an anticipated court decision to overturn the landmark abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade, per a draft decision that leaked in early May.

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The bill passed the House by large margin, 396-27. All those who voted in opposition are Democrats like Pressley. The bill past the Senate last month.

On Tuesday, after the vote, Pressley highlighted legislation she co-sponsored, the Healthcare Providers Safety Act, which would create a grant program for healthcare providers to upgrade the physical and cyber security of their facilities, staff, and patients.

“Everyone should feel safe in their workplace, their home and their community,” Pressley said in a statement to the Boston Herald. “Right now, the unprecedented actions of this extreme Supreme Court have put lives at risk — including and especially the lives of our abortion care providers, health center staff, and the patients seeking abortion care who are targeted by anti-abortion extremists incited by harmful rhetoric from the nation’s highest court.

“It is imperative that Congress swiftly enact the Healthcare Providers Safety Act, legislation led by Representative Veronica Escobar that I am proud to co-sponsor, which would provide essential resources to protect these courageous frontline healthcare workers and the patients they serve,” Pressley added. “The House has yet to take up this important legislation, and it must move without delay.”

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The congresswoman said elected and appointed officials — such as Supreme Court justices — already have security personnel, according to the newspaper.

Yet, “abortion care providers and patients — who already face and will undoubtedly face persistent threats of violence and criminalization should Roe fall — do not,” Pressley said.

“It is inexcusable that we continue to place a hierarchy on people’s safety and lives,” she added. “I will continue fighting to ensure everyone feels safe in America and to affirm abortion care as the fundamental human right that it is. The House should immediately bring the Healthcare Providers Safety Act to the floor for a vote.”

Escobar, a Texas Democrat, filed the bill last month. If passed, the law would let healthcare providers become eligible for funding for security enhancements such as video surveillance systems, data privacy equipment, and physical, structural changes, according to her office.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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