House making first attempt to protect abortion in post-Roe era

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is expected to vote Friday on two bills that would restore and guarantee access to abortion across the country as Democrats make their first attempt to respond legislatively to the landmark Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The legislation has almost no chance of becoming law, as it lacks the necessary support in the Senate 50-50. However, the vote marks the beginning of a new era in the abortion debate, as lawmakers, governors and lawmakers grapple with the impact of the court’s decision. By striking down Roe, the court has allowed states to enact strict limits on abortion, including many that had previously been deemed unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

Several GOP-controlled states have already moved quickly to restrict or ban abortion, while Democratic-controlled states have sought to defend access. Voters now classify abortion as one of the most pressing issues facing the country, a shift in priorities that Democrats hope will reshape the political landscape in their favor by the midterm elections.

Before the House vote, Democrats highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl who had to cross state lines to Indiana for an abortion after being raped, calling it an example of how the court’s decision is already having dire consequences.

“We don’t have to imagine why this might matter. We do not need to evoke hypotheses. We already know what happened,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday on the Senate floor.

“Should the next 10-year-old or 12-year-old or 14-year-old’s right to desperately needed care be jeopardized?”

In the House, Democrats will introduce two abortion bills on Friday, one of which would prohibit punishing a woman or child who chooses to travel to another state for an abortion. It specifies that doctors cannot be punished for providing reproductive care outside of their home state.

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.” However, the court has never said exactly where the right to travel comes from and that could leave it open to challenge or elimination, as was the right to abortion.

Lawmakers in Missouri earlier this year, for example, I consider making it illegal to “aid or abet” abortions that violate Missouri law, even if they occur outside of the state. The proposal was finally shelved.

The second House bill, which first it happened in september but stalled in the Senate, it would enshrine access to abortion as protected by federal law. It would also expand protections Roe had previously provided by banning what supporters say are medically unnecessary restrictions that block access to safe and affordable abortions.

“The bill converts Roe v. Wade into the law of the land and protects it from some of the attacks that have occurred since it was overturned by the Supreme Court,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said Thursday.

It would prevent abortion bans before 24 weeks, which is when fetal viability, the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the womb, is generally thought to begin. The bill allows exceptions for abortions after fetal viability when a provider determines that the life or health of the mother is at risk.

The Democrats’ proposal would also prevent states from requiring providers to share “medically inaccurate” information, or require additional testing or waiting periods, often with the goal of dissuading a patient from having an abortion.

Republicans have celebrated the end of Roe v. Wade and are expected to overwhelmingly oppose both bills, denouncing them as extreme. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who supports instituting a national abortion ban, accused his colleagues across the aisle Thursday of trying to “inflame” the abortion issue. He said travel law advocates should be asking, “Does the child in the womb have a right to travel in its future?”

Only two Republican senators, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins, have supported abortion rights, but they do not support the Democrats’ proposal, calling it too broad in scope. They have introduced alternative legislation that would prohibit states from placing an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability, among other provisions.

Asked Thursday whether Democrats should work with the two senators, Pelosi responded: “We’re not going to negotiate on a woman’s right to choose.”

Since the court’s ruling last month, some activists have accused President Joe Biden and other top Democrats of not responding strongly enough to the decision. Biden, who denounced the court’s ruling as “extreme,” last week issued an executive order intended to avoid some potential penalties that women seeking an abortion may face. His administration has also warned medical providers that they should offer abortion if the mother’s life is at risk.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has already launched a digital ad campaign to energize voters on the issue, warning that the Republicans’ ultimate goal is to ban abortion nationwide.

“We have to elect a couple more Democratic senators so we can get around the filibuster and we can pass legislation that really affects a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “There are no half measures.”


Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.


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