Following the shocking leak last week of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating the court’s conservative majority may soon overturn Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats will force a vote on Wednesday to advance a bill that would enshrine abortion rights in federal law.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would codify the Roe v. Wade decision while also prohibiting state-imposed abortion-care requirements such as waiting periods and mandatory doctor visits prior to the procedure. However, without the 60 votes required to overcome a Republican-led filibuster, the legislation is almost certain to fail in the Senate, leaving Democrats scrambling for alternatives.
Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argued that the vote was necessary to put Republicans on the record, calling it “one of the most consequential we will take in decades.”
“All of us will have to answer for this vote for the rest of our time in public office,” Schumer said in remarks on the House floor Wednesday morning. “Before the end of the day, every member of this body will choose whether to stand with women to protect their liberties or with MAGA Republicans to lead our country into a dark and repressive future.”
“This is a cruel, repressive, and dangerous vision for our country,” he added, describing a country without abortion access.
On Monday, Schumer moved for cloture on a motion to begin debate on the Women’s Health Protection Act, paving the way for a procedural roll call vote on Wednesday. The bill passed the House last year but failed again in the Senate in February, when Schumer failed to secure the support of the entire Democratic caucus in a 46-48 vote. Democrats currently control 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote – but the filibuster rule requires 60 votes to end debate on a piece of legislation.
Democrats not only lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster, but it’s also unclear whether they’ll have the full support of their caucus, given that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with Republicans to block the measure earlier this year.
Republicans and Manchin have criticized the Women’s Health Protection Act’s breadth, prompting Democrats to draft a revised version. Still, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Senate Republicans who support abortion rights, told reporters this week that the bill goes too far for them and that they would vote “no.”
The Reproductive Choice Act, proposed by Collins and Murkowski, would prohibit states from imposing a “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to choose to terminate a pregnancy before viability while allowing states to maintain other restrictions. However, at least 17 abortion-rights organizations stated this week that they would not protect the right to abortion.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told ABC News’ Trish Turner on Tuesday that he’s been negotiating with Collins since last week to try to change the Reproductive Choice Act to protect access to abortion and contraception in federal law.
“We would like to codify the set of holdings beginning with Griswold and continuing through the Whole Women’s Health case,” Kaine said of the bipartisan effort, referring to the Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut, which upheld a constitutional marital right to privacy. However, 60 votes are required to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Abortion-rights activists spilled over from outside the Supreme Court to the steps of the United States Capitol on Tuesday night, urging lawmakers to protect abortion access nationwide.