House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference about the House vote on H.R. The 3755 legislation, called the “Women’s Health Protection Act”, is designed to establish a federally-protected right to access abortion at the Capitol, Washington, U.S.A, September 24, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
House Democrats on Friday approved wide-ranging legislation to protect abortion rights, a swift but mostly symbolic response to the Supreme Court’s refusal to block a Texas law banning most abortions.
The vote, 218-221, was mainly a sign of solidarity as the Women’s Health Protection Act will be met with strong resistance from Senate Republicans. This bill is not likely to move through the chamber.
Democrats think the bill will guarantee abortion rights through federal legislation and prove Roe V. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court landmark decision which established the Constitutional right to this procedure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., worked quickly to schedule action on the bill after the high court earlier this month refused to block a controversial Texas law that prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks, before most realize they are pregnant.
Texas’ law specifically states that abortions may not be performed by doctors if the fetal heartbeat is detected. This type of activity typically begins around six weeks into gestation. This law became effective on September 1.
Texas’ law doesn’t make any exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape, or incest. It is also unprecedented in allowing private citizens to sue those who do the procedure.
Pelosi offered comments prior to the bill’s passage Friday morning and offered a pointed rebuke to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision earlier this month. While the justices voted to not block the law, they focused on procedural matters and stressed the fact that the Constitution is still to be ruled upon.
It is all about freedom. About freedom of women to have choice about the size and timing of their families, not the business of people on the [Supreme] Court or members of Congress,” the House speaker said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington and chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said from the House floor that she has received an abortion and urged fellow lawmakers not to criminalize the procedure.
The abortion rate in America is one in four. Before the bill was passed, she stated that she was among them. Madam Speaker! It was difficult for me to end my pregnancy. However, it was my decision. This is the right time to protect it for everyone.
Although it was defeated in the Senate, House approval of the bill could fuel Democrats in 2022’s midterm elections. The House vote will also be used as a talking point by voters who consider the Supreme Court’s decision to have eroded rights they believed were settled law.
Republicans opposed to the bill, such as Julia Letlow from Louisiana, protested it before the House vote.
Members of the GOP claim the bill would strip states of their authority to regulate abortion. The GOP members also claim that the bill would prohibit states from passing measures to improve abortion safety and increase the number of procedures during the last stages.
Letlow spoke from the House floor, saying, “As a mom of two kids, and a woman in general, I am uniquely qualified to discuss this.”
Letlow said that the legislation she is presenting “is perhaps the most extreme form of abortion Congress has ever looked at.” It will repeal many protections that have been put in place by states for unborn children.
It is possible that the Senate will not vote on the bill because it is unclear whether it has the support of a majority.
The Senate’s bill is expected to be opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Senator Bob Casey, both Democrats. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who has supported abortion rights in the past, has reportedly said she will not support the bill in its current form.
Even if Democrats could gather enough votes to pass the Senate with a majority, it’s almost certain that Republicans will filibuster and block the bill from moving forward with 60 or less votes.
A group of abortion providers and advocates asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly review their challenge to the Texas law.
Rather than try again to temporarily block the Texas law, Thursday’s petition asked the Supreme Court to grant a request to review their case. Advocates for abortion rights requested that the Supreme Court quickly review the case, instead of waiting for a final judgement in an appeals court.