Parliament must vote on legislation aimed at guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion, a bill that reflects the Democratic Party’s response to a restrictive new Texas law that has threatened access.
WASHINGTON (AP) – Parliament voted Friday on legislation aimed at guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, an effort by House Democrats to circumvent a new Texas law that has threatened that access.
The expected house passage is likely to be mostly symbolic, as Republican opposition will judge it in the Senate. But Democrats say they will do everything they can to codify the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling after the Supreme Court recently allowed the Texas law, which bans most abortions in the state, to take effect. The court will hear arguments in December in a separate Mississippi bid to overturn the landmark decision.
Codifying the Roe ruling would mean creating a right to abortion in federal law, a monumental change that would make it harder for courts and states to impose restrictions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said congressional actions would make a “huge difference” in Democrats’ efforts to maintain access to abortion rights. She called the Supreme Court’s decision “shameful” and opposed her own precedent.
Pelosi said just before the vote that it should “send a very positive message to the women of our country – but not just the women, to the women and their families, to all who value freedom, honor our constitution and respect women.”
The vote is likely to fall mostly along party lines. Nearly every Republican house, including the few advocating for abortion rights, is expected to vote against legislation that would replace state laws on the subject, give health care providers the right to perform abortions, and patients the right to receive them. Republicans argue that it would prevent states from making demands such as parental involvement and could weaken laws that allow doctors to refuse to perform an abortion.
The legislation “is not about women’s freedom, it’s about the death of babies,” the Republican rep said. Vicky Hartzler from Missouri. She said it would remove the protection for women and girls who may be forced to have abortions.
“It ends a living person’s life with a plan and a purpose from God and who deserves to live,” Hartzler said.
The vote comes as Democrats have boldly talked about fighting the Supreme Court – which has a more conservative slant after Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed last year – but fought privately to find an effective strategy. They control Congress with the thinnest margins, including the evenly divided 50-50 Senate, making the prospects for a successful legislative response difficult.
The party has in some cases disagreed on how far Washington should go to maintain access to abortions. Liberal lawmakers backed by advocates of reproductive rights who helped power with President Joe Biden into office want to expand the number of Supreme Court justices to rebalance power and change the rules if necessary to lower the threshold by 60 votes, which typically required in the Senate to pass further legislation.
“Democrats can either abolish the filibuster and expand the judiciary or do nothing, as millions of people’s bodies, rights and lives are sacrificed for a far – right minority government,” the tweet rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. “This should not be a difficult decision.”
But other Democrats – among them Biden – have been wary of such a move.
Biden supports the House proposal, calling the Texas court ruling an “unprecedented attack on a woman’s constitutional rights.” He has instructed several agencies to implement a government-wide effort to ensure that women have access to abortion and to protect health care providers. But he has not approved the idea of adding the judges to the Supreme Court, instead forming a commission to study it.
The court’s decisions on abortion can also cause political tensions among Republicans.
Former President Donald Trump was able to secure three new Conservative Supreme Court justices because Republican leadership in Congress led by GOP leader Mitch McConnell paved the way. Now that the court affirmed the strict new Texas aw that banned most abortions in the state, the political fallout will test the limits of this strategy.
Women and advocates for abortion rights are quickly mobilized to not only welcome these Republicans, but also the big corporations that backed them, targeting those who contributed to many of the Texas Republicans behind the abortion law.
“They will be met with a harsh response from women and people across the country,” Sonja Spoo, Director of Reproductive Rights Campaigns at UltraViolet, an advocacy firm, said in an interview Thursday.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supports abortion rights, says Texas law is “harmful and extreme,” and she supports the codification of Roe.
But she says the House proposal goes “far beyond” that, for example, by threatening doctors who refuse to perform abortions on religious or moral grounds.
“I support the codification of Roe, and I am working with some of my colleagues in the Senate on legislation that would do that,” Collins said in a statement.
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