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Chuck Schumer is forcing a vote on abortion rights so voters can ‘see which side ever senator stands on.’ Here are 5 things to know.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer flanked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol. Schumer and other members of the Senate spoke on the Women's Health Protection Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer flanked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, and Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol. Schumer and other members of the Senate spoke on the Women’s Health Protection Act.

  • Next week, Senate Democrats will vote to make abortion rights part of federal law.
  • The bill would undo abortion restrictions in states.
  • It already passed the Democratic-controlled House.

Democrats are lining up a vote that would protect abortion rights after a leaked draft showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

“Every American is going to see which side ever senator stands on,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the steps on the US Capitol. By Thursday, he announced the vote would take place on May 11.

The call to action comes after Politico published a leaked draft showing the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe and no longer recognize a constitutional right to abortion. The decision isn’t final, but the news sent Capitol Hill into overdrive about how to respond. 

Here’s what to know about the Women’s Health Protection Act as the Senate gears up for a vote: 

It would make abortion legal in ever state 

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, then state lawmakers would decide how accessible abortion can be within their borders. At least 13 states would make most abortion illegal if Roe is overturned.

But the Women’s Health Protection Act would neutralize state bans. 

It would also toss out state regulations. States could no longer ask patients to wait 24 hours after an initial appointment before being allowed to have abortions, and they could not tell clinics what kind of abortion counseling they have to provide, nor force patients to undergo ultrasounds.

State lawmakers couldn’t dictate how clinics must be set up, nor prohibit abortion providers from meeting with patients over telemedicine. They also wouldn’t be able to ban any particular type of abortion, including medication abortion.

Under the bill, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants would all be allowed to provide abortions. 

Any proposed state regulations on abortions would have to go through the courts first. The law directs judges to strike down all regulations that would delay abortions, close clinics, or cause abortions to become more expensive.

Democrats’ legislation wouldn’t change the Hyde Amendment, which is a rider attached to spending bills that prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when a pregnancy is life-threatening. 

It would undo state’s gestational limits on abortion

The Women’s Health Protection Act would allow abortion before fetal viability. Typically, doctors consider viability to be about 24 weeks into pregnancy. That’s around the time when a premature baby would have a good chance of survival. 

But viability can also depend on fetal or maternal health, and so the bill leaves viability up to a doctor’s judgement, saying they should determine the “reasonable likelihood of sustained fetal survival outside the uterus with or without artificial support.”

The bill does allow for abortions after viability in cases where a pregnancy threatens someone’s life or health. The bill does not define “health,” said Ellen Hamilton, legislative director for Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California who authored the bill. 

The Supreme Court has previously weighed in on the post-viability exemptions in its 1973 Doe v. Bolton decision, which was handed down the same day as Roe but isn’t as well known. 

Under Doe, after-viability abortions are allowed if a doctor determines they’re needed not just to protect physical health, but emotional and psychological. The doctor could also factor in familial circumstances and age.

Such language for post-viability abortions has been enshrined into law in several blue states. 

Abortion-rights protest at Supreme Court
Abortion-rights activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2020.

Democrats don’t have enough support to get their bill through Congress

The US House passed the Womens’ Health Protection Act in September 2021 by a 218-211 vote, but it failed when it went before the Senate in February.

The final vote in the upper chamber failed at 46-48, with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting against it and six senators not voting. 

Given that vote breakdown, the Senate doesn’t have the 60 votes it needs to pass a bill. They don’t even have the 50 votes they’d need if they were to throw out the filibuster

That’s why many Democrats, including President Joe Biden, reacted to Monday’s leak by urging voters to go to the polls to elect politicians in favor of abortion rights

“At the federal level, we will need more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe, which I will work to pass and sign into law,” he said. 

Voters support is mixed 

The majority of voters, 58%, say they’re against overturning Roe, according to polling from Gallup. That same polling shows only 38% of voters are supportive. 

But additional polling shows voters don’t align with the exact stipulations set out in Roe, either. For instance, polling shows that support for abortion drops when a pregnancy is further along. Most voters oppose having limits on abortions when a pregnancy is life-threatening or when a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. 

Republicans are plotting their next steps

GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine both support abortion rights, but they said the Women’s Health Protection Act went too far so they voted against it. Collins said Thursday she’d be voting against it again. 

Specifically, there is no language in the bill saying that medical providers who object to abortion for moral or religious reasons aren’t obligated to provide them. 

They introduced their own bill instead, called the Reproductive Choice Act. But that bill also doesn’t appear to have enough support. 

“I don’t know if there is a path forward for it,” Murkowski told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Most Republicans in Congress support some type of abortion ban. Some, such as GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, want to see a six-week ban, according to the Washington Post

But the National Right to Life, one of the largest organizations that opposes abortion, told Insider it was taking more of a wait-and-see approach. Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for the group, said it wanted to gauge where GOP comfort level might be.

“We will work together with them where they feel they can attract the maximum amount of votes,” she said. Some possibilities might include a 20-week ban or to make the Hyde Amendment permanent, she said.

Other Republicans indicated they weren’t ready to make a determination.  

“This is an issue for the states and for voters in the states,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican of Missouri, told reporters at the Capitol. He said he would support banning abortion after 20 weeks but said states should “have the first crack” at setting abortion laws. “Return this to the political process closest to the people,” he said. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to answer questions about the future of abortion rights during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, but other GOP leadership arms weighed in, leaning toward bans on later abortions. 

“Restricting late-term abortions is a consensus position,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee wrote in talking points first reported by Axios

This story originally published May 3, 2022, and has been updated to include the date of the vote. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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