The Women’s Health Protection Act was a bill recently brought before the Senate. It was sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The bill focused on giving women the right to have an abortion in the United States. It failed to get enough Republican support to pass a procedural vote.
The bill was expected to fail, but Democratic leaders were feeling pressure from the people that they represent to get it before the Senate for a vote so that they could show support for federal abortion rights as the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to make decisions about those very rights.
Those in favor of abortion rights are putting their eggs in the basket of federal legislation. Because of the way the High Court is now leaning, proponents of abortion rights see the way of legislation as their hope to codify the right to end a pregnancy in America. The Supreme Court has given signals that they may soon end constitutional protections.
The Women’s Health Protection Act needed some Republicans to support it if they were to reach the 60-vote threshold that would overcome a filibuster. But when the vote was counted, there were 46 yeas and 48 nays. Senator Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, voted against the bill, as did Senators Murkowski and Collins. They are both moderate Republicans who have supported limited abortion rights in the past.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, told the media before the vote, “Abortion is a fundamental right, and women’s decisions over women’s healthcare belong to women, not to extremist right-wing legislators.”
Those who oppose abortion said that the legislation was radical and that it would nullify state laws that have been passed to restrict abortions. They were happy just to get the bill to a vote in the Senate. They believe it forced senators to go on the record and they would be judged by their constituents.
Steve Daines, a Republican Senator from Montana, said this while debating the bill from the floor, “It’s extreme. It’s an egregious violation of the most fundamental of all human rights, and that is the right to life.”
The Act in question was co-sponsored by 48 Senate Democrats. It stated that healthcare providers would be able to provide abortions without barriers like fetal viability. Several states currently have laws regarding viability in place. It would have barred regulations within a state that included: ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, and certain gestational age restrictions. This would have included the Texas Heartbeat Act. The bill also proposed that the United States attorney general would be able to sue any state or government official who violated its terms.
This issue will be one of the key issues in campaigns across the county in the 2022 midterm elections. The right to an abortion before fetal viability has been protected under the Constitution since the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade in 1973. Fetal viability has, in the past, been considered to be around the 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But in December of last year, the High Court signaled that it may be willing to rethink that ruling and allow a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The case may be heard by the Supreme Court in late Spring of this year.
There are about 26 states that would likely ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights advocacy research group.
Many Democrats see this bill’s failure as a major loss for pro-abortion advocates. The midterm elections could seize the momentum of this vote and possibly get Roe v. Wade overturned. Let’s keep this movement toward the value of every life going.