House passes two bills to ensure access to abortion

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday passed two bills aimed at ensuring abortion access in the post-Roe era, as Democrats seek to draw clear distinctions with Republicans on the issue ahead of Washington’s election campaign. mid-term.

A measure, which passed mostly through parties, 222 to 205, would protect the right to travel across state lines for abortion services, with three Republicans joining Democrats in supporting the measure.

A second measure, a version of which was passed by the House last year, would explicitly give health care providers the right to provide abortion services and their patients the right to obtain them, invalidating various restrictions on state that were enacted as a result of the Supreme Court. Court decision quashing Roe v. Wade and ending the constitutional right to abortion. That second measure, the Women’s Health Protection Act, passed 219 to 210, also mostly along party lines, with one Democrat, Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, voting with Republicans.

Neither bill has the votes to advance to the Senate. But Democrats cheered when the bills passed, lining up both sides approaching midterms on an issue that has only further divided politically.

“Liberty, justice and liberty are under attack right now because of a radical, right-wing, illegitimate majority in the Supreme Court and their extreme co-conspirators in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said. , Democrat of New York, in the House. floor. “We will always defend these freedoms.”

Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, said the Supreme Court’s “devastating” decision to overturn Roe “has created a patchwork of states with different laws and restrictions, causing societal chaos and confusion.”

She added, “It’s a hunt for women.”

Representative Diana Harshbarger, Republican of Tennessee, dismissed the legislation as a “deceptive ploy to circumvent the authority of states to establish their own abortion procedure laws”.

The action pushes the debate into the campaign, where both parties hope to motivate voters by framing the election around one of the country’s longest-running cultural divides.

Polls suggest support for abortion has grown as states enact abortion-restricting laws, and Democrats hope they can use that to motivate voters to elect officials who will enshrine access to abortion. abortion in law.

“We need two more pro-choice Democratic senators so we can root out the filibuster and make this legislation the law of the land,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the House on Friday.

“We offer hope to the American people who cherish our freedoms and are overwhelmingly with us in our mission to defend them, Ms. Pelosi added. “What do the Republicans have in store for us next? Can’t come to buy a book? Can’t come to see a concert or a play?

Democrats are also reacting to a wave of pressure from progressives in their ranks, outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision last month and the slow response from their leaders to an opinion that has been overdue for weeks.

Republicans hope to win a long-term fight to change public perceptions about abortion. And they tried to frame the Democratic measures as “radical” proposals that would allow late-term abortions on demand.

In reality, the Democratic bill allows post-viability abortions only in circumstances where a doctor determines that continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk to the life or health of the patient.

“Both sides are guilty of dismissing each other,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, said, rejecting the Women’s Health Protection Act as an “abortion-on-demand” bill.

“Science has evolved. I hope we learn from this and reject abortion; it is unthinkable,” she said.

As Democrats pushed votes that will force Republicans to show their stance on abortion care and frame it as out of step with a majority of Americans, Republican lawmakers have embraced the debate, even proposing legislation that would federalize some of the anti-abortion laws passed in states like Texas.

On Wednesday, the Republican Review Committee, the largest congressional caucus, approved the Heartbeat Protection Act, a bill that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected. It can be as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. The measure, opponents say, would amount to an outright ban on abortion.

Republican-led state legislatures have also advanced plans that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident of a state where abortion is banned to seek an abortion in a state where it remains legal.

Representative Lizzie Fletcher, Democrat of Texas, said her bill prohibiting states from enacting or enforcing laws restricting travel to obtain an abortion is consistent with the constitutional right to travel between states.

But Republicans blasted the bill as “part of an extreme agenda” to allow abortions without restrictions.

“This would prevent healthcare professionals from reporting cases of child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, as they could be seen as delaying or hindering access to abortion,” Ms McMorris Rodgers said.

The Senate, however, remains the main obstacle to any legislative effort to codify Roe v. Wade into the law, or even the narrower measure to protect travel rights in states where abortion is still legal.

All but two of the Senate Republicans oppose abortion rights, leaving little hope that a bill could go forward. With one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, also opposed, there is no realistic path for the legislation to win the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.

Senate Democrats tried and failed in May to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. But Republicans and Mr. Manchin opposed it, stalling a debate and leaving the measure short of even a simple majority.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from passing a Democratic bill aimed at protecting a woman’s right to cross state lines to seek abortion care.

“Does this child in its mother’s womb have the right to travel in its future?” Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said. “Will they live?” He added: “There is also a child in this conversation.”

Still, many Democratic lawmakers focused their anger Friday on the Supreme Court rather than their Republican colleagues. Rep. Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said Republicans had “fixed” the Supreme Court, “with a few justices seated by an autocratic president.” She added: “They behave like theocrats.

Corina C. Butler