The House plans to vote with Roe Under Threat on a bill to combat abortion restrictions


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WASHINGTON – House Democrats plan on Friday to enforce broad legislation to uphold abortion law and are taking urgent action after a major Supreme Court setback to prepare for a ruling next year that could further restrict access to abortion nationwide .

The vote in the House of Representatives will be largely symbolic as the bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has little chance of moving forward due to Republican opposition in the Senate. However, the House Democrats’ decision to consider doing so reflects their view that the issue could find great resonance in next year’s midterm elections, especially if female voters view the Supreme Court lawsuit as a threat to the rights of them many believed that they had long been settled.

Democrats quickly decided to plan action against the measure after the court refused this month to block a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks of gestation. It would guarantee the right to abortion through federal law and preempt hundreds of state laws that govern the procedure across the country. Democrats argue that it would codify Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.

The bill’s authors say they began drafting it a decade ago in response to emerging efforts at the state level to impose stringent requirements on those seeking and offering abortions, as well as the increasingly conservative composition of the court. They say the court’s current membership and hostility to abortion rights have confirmed the approach and that time is pressing as judges next year will rule on a Mississippi bill that severely restricts abortion.

“It became very apparent that we needed something that would reduce all of these government restrictions,” said Judy Chu, a California Democrat and lead author of the measure. “We could see that a change was possible at the Supreme Court and we knew we had to make sure Roe v. Wade was protected.”

But opponents of the law – including some Republicans who have supported the right to abortion – argue that it goes well beyond groundbreaking court precedent and deprives states of much of their ability to regulate abortions and take steps that make the process safe should. They say it would lead to a lot more abortions in the late stages of pregnancy.

“This bill is really about a federal government mandate that requires abortion on demand, regardless of anyone, including the provider’s conscience,” said Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and a major enemy of the bill.

Democratic supporters of the measure say they are confident they will get approval in the House of Representatives, which has not voted on it before. But the Senate, led by the Democrats, may not take up the bill, which hardly appears to be supported by a majority in this chamber.

At least two Democrats who oppose the right to abortion, Senators Bob Casey from Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin III from West Virginia, are against the law. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, is reluctant to discuss action in the evenly-divided chamber, which does not have at least 50 votes. Even if the bill could win a slim majority, the Republicans would certainly filibussed it and prevent it from moving forward unless it could win 60 votes, a number that seems way out of reach.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supports the right to abortion and was seen as a potential vote for the new law, said she would not support it in its current form.

“I support the codification of Roe,” said Ms. Collins. “Unfortunately, the bill that the House has drafted goes far beyond that.” She argued that this would “severely weaken” the protection of health care providers who refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons.

The Biden administration, recalling the new Texas law, endorsed the bill.

“After the unprecedented attack on Texas, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and strengthen access to health care for all women, regardless of where they live,” White House officials said in a policy statement. “Our daughters and granddaughters deserve the same rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought and won for – and that a clear majority of the American people support.”

The Democrats’ strong push for the abortion law measure reflects changing political dynamics within the party. In the past, Democratic leaders have been reluctant to highlight measures such as the Women’s Health Act for fear of placing centrists in swing districts in a difficult position and potentially alienating voters.

But as the number of Middle Democrats has grown, so has the number of MPs in the party who speak out against abortion rights. Ms. Chu said she found that her colleagues from competitive districts were eager to join the measure.

“This is a pro-choice nation,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois and a major proponent of the legislation, told the House Rules Committee this week when she asked the panel to negotiate the bill. “That is the majority opinion of most voters.”

Several public opinion polls conducted since the Supreme Court approved the Mississippi case takeover have shown strong support for the legality of abortions – nearly 60 percent in some polls – despite that support for abortions performed later in pregnancies usually decreases.

Opponents say even those who support the right to abortion to some extent still want the process to be tightly regulated and for states to set safeguards and limits.

“Our biggest problem is definitely that it robs state and local lawmakers the ability to resolve issues that they have identified that are raising their constituents,” said Katie Glenn, government affairs advisor for Americans United for Life. “Thousands of state laws are jeopardized by this law.”

Ms. Chu said that some of these laws should be abolished because their real intent was to make abortions more difficult and to discourage women from seeking them. While the move was unlikely to clear the Senate, she said it was necessary for Democrats to act on the December case on Mississippi abortion restrictions given Texas law and the likelihood of a major Supreme Court ruling.

“It is important for us to make a strong statement about what is possible in Congress,” said Ms. Chu, “to protect women’s agency.”

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