The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act on Friday with the expectation that it is likely to fail in the split Senate.
In a largely symbolic move, Democrats are looking to vote on the measure in order to represent their willingness to codify the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade into law as the high court could potentially overturn the decision that effectively legalized abortion across the country in 1973.
Democrats might see this as a potentially important issue in the midterm elections and are securing a vote this year in order to show pro-abortion voters that they are willing to take action if the Supreme Court rules against the precedent established in Roe v. Wade and instead allows states to decide their own abortion laws.
As The New York Times reported, “Democrats moved swiftly to schedule action on the measure after the court refused this month to block a Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of gestation. It would guarantee the right to abortion through federal law, pre-empting hundreds of state laws governing the procedure around the country.”
“It became very evident that we needed to have something that would push back against all these state restrictions,” said Representative Judy Chu (D-CA), who is the top author of the legislation. “We could see that change was possible at the Supreme Court, and we knew we had to make sure that Roe v. Wade was protected.”
Not all Democrats are supportive of the measure, however, due to the fact that it goes far in its actions.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said she could not back the bill in its current state.
“‘I support codifying Roe,’ Collins said. ‘Unfortunately, the bill that the House has drafted goes way beyond that.’ She argued that it would ‘severely weaken’ protections afforded to health care providers who refused to perform abortions on religious or moral grounds,” per the Times.
The Biden administration backs the bill and specifically targeted Texas in its statement regarding the legislation.
The state recently passed the Texas Heartbeat Act, which makes most abortions illegal after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy.
The administration released a statement earlier this week saying it “strongly supports” the passage of the bill.
It said, “The Texas law significantly impairs women’s access to critical reproductive health care, particularly affecting communities of color, individuals with low incomes, and those who live in rural or underserved communities. The law also turns private citizens into bounty hunters who are empowered to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, including family members, faith leaders, those providing transportation, and health care providers.”
It went on to say, “In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress as the Women’s Health Protection Act advances through the legislative process to ensure that this bill codifies and is consistent with the protections established by Roe and subsequent Supreme Court precedent.”
A top Republican speaking out against the bill is Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who said, “This legislation is really about a mandate by the federal government that would demand abortion on demand, without any consideration for anyone, including the conscience of the provider.”
Katie Glenn, the government affairs counsel of Americans United for Life, said, per The Times, “Our biggest issue is definitely that this takes away the ability of state lawmakers and local lawmakers to solve problems that they have identified and that their constituents raise,” adding, that “thousands of state laws are at risk from this bill.”