Senate Republicans block bill that would have codified Roe v. Wade

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Every Republican, plus Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, voted to block the Women's Health Protection Act.

Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have protected abortion rights and codified the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a federal right to abortion. The Democratic majority brought the bill up for a vote Wednesday after the leak on May 1 of a draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization indicating that the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe imminently.

The vote was 49 to 51, short of the required 60-vote supermajority needed even to consider the Women's Health Protection Act. Every Democratic senator except West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin voted for debating the bill. Every Republican senator voted against it.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Constitution guarantees a "right to privacy" that includes the right to choose to abort a pregnancy before a fetus is viable outside of the womb. In 1992, the court reaffirmed that right in its decision in Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

But with three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump — who explicitly promised to appoint people who would overturn Roe — now on the court, anti-abortion Republicans in several states have intentionally defied the precedents of Roe and Casey in the hope of getting the Supreme Court to abandon them.

The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation last September that would make Roe a federal law and stop states from encroaching on abortion rights. Senate Democrats brought the bill up in February, but it failed 46-48, with six senators absent.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Wednesday warned that the impending Supreme Court ruling would open the door to GOP efforts to restrict birth control and impose a federal ban. "For many Republicans, this is just the beginning. But to everyone who is scared, to everyone who is furious, know this: They've got some big roadblocks in their way — me, Senate Democrats, House Democrats, and millions of patients across this country who are gonna stand up and speak out."

Manchin was the lone Democrat to oppose the legislation both then and again on Wednesday. He said that he would back a narrower bill that simply codified Roe, but that he believed the legislation as written "expands abortion."

Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) also voted no. They said they could back a more limited abortion rights bill, but this bill did not contain enough exceptions.

Most of the other Republicans in Congress fully oppose abortion rights and have urged the Supreme Court to throw out its almost 50-year-old precedent. Many have openly cheered Justice Samuel Alito's draft abortion ban ruling and called for legal action against whoever leaked it.

"Roe v. Wade was wrong the day it was issued, and it has been wrong every day since then," tweeted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday. "I pray that Roe v. Wade is overturned."

Polling shows that the Senate Republicans, and the GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court, are badly out of step with the American people.

A Monmouth University survey released Wednesday found that 64% of American adults believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time. The same survey found 57% want Roe left as is, while 36% want it reconsidered.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.