House passes bills to protect abortion access following Roe reversal

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The House on Friday passed two bills aimed at protecting access to abortion, marking the chamber’s first legislative attempts at safeguarding the procedure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month.

The first bill — the Women’s Health Protection Act — passed in a 219-210 vote, clearing the House for a second time in the past year. The lower chamber previously approved the measure in September, but it was twice blocked in the Senate.

Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, which all Republicans present opposed as well. He also opposed the measure when it was brought up for a vote in September.

The legislation seeks to ensure that people have access to abortion nationwide by codifying the right to the medical procedure into federal law.

The measure, however, will likely face headwinds in the Senate. Senate Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) blocked the bill in February and May when it was brought up for consideration.

Sixty votes are needed to overcome a legislative filibuster.

The House passed the second bill — titled the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act — in a 223-205 vote.

Three GOP lawmakers supported the measure, including Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Fred Upton (Mich.). Cuellar also voted in favor of the measure.

The legislation protects women who travel to another state to receive an abortion if their home state prohibits the medical procedure. And in states where abortion is lawful, the bill seeks to make it illegal for facilities to limit access to the medical procedure for individuals who arrived from out of state.

Additionally, the measure includes a provision to protect people who assist others in receiving an abortion in a state where they do not reside. It also shields the state-to-state transportation of abortion drugs that have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Republican leadership recommended that members of the GOP conference vote against both bills, according to a GOP congressional aide.

The House passed the pair of pro-abortion rights bills exactly three weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the nearly 50-year precedent that protected access to the medical procedure.

During debate on the House floor Friday, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said the Women’s Health Protection Act, which she sponsored, will help preserve protections in Roe.

“[The Women’s Health Protection Act] is the bill that will protect the right to access abortion after the tragic fall of Roe vs. Wade. It ensures in federal law the right to abortion care for every woman in every state and ensures states may not erode that right,” she said.

“You will hear Republicans say our bill goes too far, but that’s simply not true. Our bill preserves the protections of Roe that we’ve lived with for 50 years, affirmed through decades of subsequent court decisions,” she added.

A number of Democrats, in arguing for the bill, referenced the 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion because of strict laws against the medical procedure in the Buckeye State. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) described the girl’s ordeal as “barbaric.”

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) responded by trying to shift attention to the man charged in the rape, who is believed to be an undocumented immigrant.

“I have heard repeatedly my colleagues talk about this 10-year-old girl who was brutally raped. This is a heartbreaking situation. Yet, not a single peep about the man who did this — an illegal who crossed our border, who never should have been in our country in the first place who committed this crime. Not one peep,” she said.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) called the abortion debate “the human rights issue of our generation,” arguing the Women’s Health Protection Act is an extreme bill.

“The abortion on demand until birth act has nothing to do with protecting the health of women. It has everything to do with forcing an extreme agenda on the American people,” she said.

“Rather than prey on women’s vulnerabilities and fears and nationalize abortion for all nine months, we should be coming together to support women and their families at every stage of pregnancy and beyond,” she added.

During her weekly press conference on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democratic lawmakers had other bills in the works in the aftermath of Roe’s reversal.

In a letter to colleagues days after the ruling was released, she mentioned a bill that seeks to protect reproductive health data, including information on apps, arguing people were worried the information “could be used against women by a sinister prosecutor in a state that criminalizes abortion.”

It remains unclear, however, if the House will bring up the bill.

On Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the House next week will vote on the Right to Contraception Act, which seeks to protect access to contraceptives. He pointed to a concurrent opinion in the June ruling penned by Justice Clarence Thomas arguing the court should also “reconsider” its rulings on access to contraceptives and same-sex marriage.

“In his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, Justice Clarence Thomas made it very clear that the extremist ruling that ended Roe v. Wade could be used to overturn other precedents, and he specifically referenced the case that recognized Americans’ constitutional right to access contraception,” Hoyer said in a statement.

“The House will not sit back and allow extremist Republicans and their judicial appointees to limit Americans’ access to contraception, which is why I will bring H.R. 8373, the Right to Contraception Act, to the House Floor next week,” he added.

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