WASHINGTON — The House voted to restore abortion rights nationwide in Democrats’ first legislative response to the landmark Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
The legislation is unlikely to become law, with the necessary support lacking in the Senate 50-50. Still, the vote marks the start of a new era in the abortion debate as lawmakers, governors and legislatures grapple with the impact of the court’s ruling.
Legislation passed 219-210. The House also passed a second bill prohibiting punishment of a woman or child who decides to travel to another state to have an abortion, 223-205.
Texas members split along party lines on the bill protecting out-of-state travel, but Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar voted with Republicans against the bill that would restore abortion rights at national scale.
‘Just three weeks ago, the Supreme Court swept away fundamental rights by overturning Roe v. Wade,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the votes, gathered with other female Democrats 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.”
One of the bills would make it illegal to punish a woman or child who decides to travel to another state to have an abortion. The other would ensure access to abortion is protected under federal law and expand the protections Roe had previously provided.
Republicans came out strongly against the legislation, praising the Supreme Court’s decision and warning that the bills would go further than Roe ever did in legalizing abortion. The Roe case originated in Dallas County.
Urging her colleagues to vote no, Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers called abortion “the biggest human rights issue of our generation.”
She said the Democratic legislation “has nothing to do with protecting women’s health. It has everything to do with forcing an extreme agenda on the American people.”
“The assertion from the left that our attempts to protect life somehow criminalize women couldn’t be further from the truth,” Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, told the House before voting against the law projects. “We will always stay with life.”
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said on Twitter that he was “proud to vote NO to Democrats’ sweeping taxpayer-funded abortion legislation.
I was proud to vote NO to the Democrats’ sweeping taxpayer-funded abortion legislation today.
President Pelosi will endlessly push her extreme abortion agenda and I will always defend and protect the sanctity of life. #Anti-abortion https://t.co/GLZ1Tr5H4Z
— Rep. Roger Williams (@RepRWilliams) July 15, 2022
By overturning Roe, the court allowed states to enact strict limits on abortion, many of which had previously been ruled unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.
Already, a number of GOP-controlled states have moved quickly to restrict or ban abortion, while Democratic-controlled states have sought to defend access. Voters now rank abortion 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.
“In my home state of Texas, hardline Republicans have created a scary, discriminatory and oppressive patchwork,” Houston Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia told the House before voting in favor of the bills. “They do this to limit our right to make our own deeply personal and private health care decisions about our own bodies, with our family and our providers.”
Democrats have highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl who had to cross state lines to Indiana to get an abortion after being raped, calling it an example of how the decision of the court already has serious consequences.
“We don’t have to imagine why that might matter. We don’t need to conjure up hypotheses. We already know what happened,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said in the Senate on Thursday.
“Should the next 10-year-old’s right, 12-year-old’s right, or 14-year-old’s right to get the care she desperately needs be jeopardized?
The Constitution does not explicitly say that interstate travel is a right, although the Supreme Court has said it is a right that “has been firmly established and repeatedly recognized.” Yet the court never said exactly where the right to travel comes from and that could leave it open to challenge or elimination, as the right to abortion was.
Missouri lawmakers earlier this year, for example, considered making it illegal to “aid or abet” abortions that violate Missouri law, even if they occur outside the state. The proposal was ultimately dropped.
The bill that would ban penalties for out-of-state travel would also specify that doctors cannot be punished for providing reproductive care outside of their home state. Democratic Representative Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, one of the authors of the bill, said the threats to travel “do not reflect the fundamental rights granted in our Constitution.”
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, offered this version on Twitter: “Taking a short drive from Texas to Oklahoma to play slot machines is not illegal, and neither is it possible to go to New Mexico to buy weed. But radical Republicans want to lock up a woman for crossing state lines to get an abortion. How backward is this! ? »
Taking a short drive from Texas to Oklahoma to play slots is not illegal, nor is it possible to drive to New Mexico to buy weed. But radical Republicans want to lock up a woman for crossing state lines to get an abortion. How backward is this! ?
— Rep. Marc Veasey (@RepVeasey) July 15, 2022
The second bill would expand on the protections Roe had previously provided by banning what supporters see as medically unnecessary restrictions that block access to safe and accessible abortions. This would prevent bans on abortions before 24 weeks, when fetal viability, the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the womb, is generally thought to begin. It allows exceptions for abortions after fetal viability when a provider determines that the life or health of the mother is in danger.
The Democrats’ proposal would also prevent states from requiring providers to share “medically inaccurate” information, or requiring additional testing or waiting times, often intended to deter a patient from having an abortion.
Democrats have prepared other bills to pass in the coming weeks. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday that the House will vote next week on legislation guaranteeing a right to contraception.
GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who supports a national abortion ban, on Thursday accused his colleagues opposite of seeking to “inflame” the abortion issue. He said supporters of the travel bill should ask themselves: “Is the child in the womb entitled to travel in its future?”
Only two Senate Republicans, the senses. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have supported abortion rights, but they do not support the Democrats’ proposal, calling it too ambitious. They introduced alternative legislation that would prevent states from placing an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion before fetal viability, among other provisions.
When pressed on Thursday whether Democrats should work with the two senators, Pelosi pushed back, “We’re not going to negotiate a woman’s right to choose.”
Since the court ruling last month, some activists have accused President Joe Biden and other leading Democrats of failing to respond forcefully enough to the ruling. Biden, who denounced the court’s decision as “extreme”, last week issued an executive order aimed at avoiding some potential penalties that women who seek abortions could face. Her administration has also warned health care providers that they must offer abortion if the mother’s life is in danger.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has already launched a digital ad campaign to energize voters on the issue, warning that Republicans’ ultimate goal is to ban abortion nationwide.
“We need to elect a few more Democratic senators so we can get around the filibuster so we can pass legislation that actually affects a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “There are no half measures.”
Dallas Morning News Washington bureau correspondent Rebekah Alvey contributed to this report.