The U.S. House will vote Friday on a bill that protects a person’s access to abortion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bringing the Women’s Health Protection Act to floor in response to S.B. 8, a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks, before most people realize they are pregnant. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law from taking effect, although the decision leaves the door open for future challenges.
“S.B. 8 delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities,” Pelosi said in a statement in early September. “[It] is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act, H.R. 3755, would protect a person’s ability to decide to continue or end a pregnancy, and would enshrine health care providers’ ability to offer abortion services “prior to fetal viability” without restrictions imposed by individual states, like requiring special admitting privileges for providers, or imposing waiting periods.
It also prohibits restrictions on abortion after fetal viability “when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
In the end, this vote may largely be symbolic. The bill is unlikely to advance in the Senate, where 10 Republicans and all Democrats would need to back the bill in order to meet the 60-vote threshold.
The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, has 47 cosponsors. Notably, that does not include Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who has previously voted for abortion restrictions, and West Virginia moderate Joe Manchin.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., first introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act in 2013, when Republicans were in control of the House.
“Now is the chance,” she told MSNBC earlier this month, noting that Democrats have the votes in the House and President Biden’s support.
“We have had Roe v. Wade in effect for 50 years. We have been protected by that,” she described. “It wasn’t until 2011, [when] we saw states pass these medically unnecessary laws – which dictated the width of clinic doors and forced doctors to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges or where they required an ultrasound – that we saw that we just have to get the Women’s Health Protection Act in place, so that…we weren’t playing whack-a-mole with each of these states and their laws.”
The courts may still play a role. The Department of Justice is suing Texas, saying the state enacted the S.B. 8 “in open defiance of the Constitution.”