HOUSTON — The House has voted to restore abortion rights nationwide in Democrats' first legislative response to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The bill has little chance of becoming law though, with the necessary support lacking in the 50-50 Senate. Yet voting marks the beginning of a new era in the debate as lawmakers, governors and legislatures grapple with the impact of the court's decision.
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The legislation passed 219-210.
“Just three weeks ago the Supreme Court took a wrecking ball to the fundamental rights by overturning Roe v. Wade,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ahead of the votes, gathering with other Democratic women on the steps of the Capitol. “It is outrageous that 50 years later, women must again fight for our most basic rights against an extremist court.”
The House also passed a second bill to prohibit punishment for a woman or child who decides to travel to another state to get an abortion, 223-205. U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, is that bill's lead sponsor.
Fletcher said the threats to travel “fail to reflect the fundamental rights that are granted in our Constitution.”
Democrats have highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl who had to cross state lines into Indiana to get an abortion after being raped, calling it an example of how the court's decision is already having severe consequences.
“We don’t have to imagine why this might matter. We don’t need to conjure up hypotheticals. We already know what’s happened,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday on the Senate floor.
“Should the next little 10-year-old's right or 12-year-old's right or 14-year-old's right to get the care that she desperately needs be put in jeopardy?"
Fletcher’s proposal would also safeguard businesses that have offered to reimburse employees who need to leave their home states in search of a legal abortion. Major companies like Lyft, Amazon, Uber and Starbucks have all said they would help employees who wish to seek abortions out of state.
Some Texas Republicans have swiftly responded that they intend to introduce state legislation to penalize those companies.
Republicans spoke forcefully against the bills, praising the Supreme Court’s decision and warning the that the legislation would go further than Roe ever did when it comes to legalizing abortion.
Urging her colleagues to vote no, Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers called abortion “the greatest human rights issue of our generation.”
She said the Democratic legislation “has nothing to do with protecting the health of women. It has everything to do with forcing an extreme agenda on the American people.”
By overturning Roe, the court has allowed states to enact strict abortion limits, including many that had previously been deemed unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
Already, a number of GOP-controlled states have moved quickly to curtail or outlaw abortion, while states controlled by Democrats have sought to champion access. Voters now rank abortion as among the most pressing issues facing the country, a shift in priorities that Democrats hope will reshape the political landscape in their favor for the midterm elections.
This is the second time the House has passed the bill, which would expand on the protections Roe had previously provided by banning what supporters say are medically unnecessary restrictions that block access to safe and accessible abortions. It would prevent abortion bans earlier than 24 weeks, which is when fetal viability, the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the uterus, is generally thought to begin. It allows exceptions for abortions after fetal viability when a provider determines the life or health of the mother is at risk.