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Bill to Codify Roe v. Wade Fails in Senate

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Roe v. Wade and judge's gavel | Image by zimmytws

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill that would codify the ruling of Roe v. Wade into federal law and override state laws like the Texas Heartbeat Act.

The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) failed as expected, on a 51 to 49 vote, with all Republicans, and Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, voting in opposition.

Democrats pressed forward with a vote on the bill even though it was apparent it would not receive the 60-votes necessary to avoid a Republican filibuster. Democrat leaders previously attempted to hold a vote on the bill in February but could not gather enough support to begin debates on the legislation.

“Every American is going to see where every Senator stands on protecting one of the most important rights a woman has regarding her own body,” Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday. “I want to be clear: this week’s vote is not an abstract exercise; this is as real and as high stakes as it gets, and Senate Republicans will no longer be able to hide from the horror they’ve unleashed upon women in America.”

President Joe Biden released a statement shortly after the bill failed, calling on voters to elect pro-abortion representatives during November midterms.

“This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people,” Biden said, referencing the draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade. “To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law.”

Senator Manchin said his opposition to the WHPA was that it went further than just codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law.

“Make no mistake, it is not Roe v. Wade codification,” he said. “It is an expansion. It wipes 500 state laws off the books, it expands abortion, and with that, that’s not where we are today. We should not be dividing this country further than we’re already divided, and it’s really the politics of Congress that’s dividing the country.”

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), considered a swing vote in the Senate, voted against the bill, citing that it “doesn’t protect the right of a Catholic hospital to not perform abortions.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) claimed that Collins’ assertions were wrong and that nothing in the bill “detracts in any way from existing protections based on conscience or religion.”

Collins and fellow senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have authored their own legislation that would codify the rulings of Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed Roe‘s central ruling and said states could not enact restrictions that impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion before fetal viability, into federal law. The Senate has yet to take up a vote on their legislation.

“My goal is to codify what is essentially existing law. That means Roe v. Wade, it means Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which established the undue burden test. And it means keeping the conscience protections which appear to be wiped out by the Democrats’ version. So I’m not trying to go beyond current law or, but rather to codify those Supreme Court decisions,” Collins told ABC News.

When asked why the Senate has not voted on Collins and Murkowski’s legislation, Schumer responded that Democrats “are not looking to compromise on something as vital as this.”

Echoing the criticism that the WHPA goes farther than codifying the Supreme Court ruling in Roe, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the legislation “extreme and radical.”

“It ignores modern science. It is tone-deaf to public opinion,” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the vote. “Nothing about their bill merely codifies the current case law on this issue. Their extreme proposal goes way, way beyond codifying the status quo.”     

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