Democrats are reintroducing legislation to protect people’s access to abortion, just as Republicans at the state-level push dozens of bills trying to limit access to reproductive rights and the Supreme Court is set to consider a pivotal case.
The Women’s Health Protection Act, first introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in 2013, would block states from imposing restrictions on abortion that make it harder for pregnant people to access care. It would protect both a person’s right to determine if they want to continue a pregnancy, and health providers’ ability to offer reproductive health care services.
In a press conference Tuesday, Blumenthal warned that Republican lawmakers have introduced over 500 measures at the state level seeking to restrict access to abortion, noting that the “pace has accelerated” in recent years.
“What we’ve seen is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy,” Blumenthal said, calling the state-level barriers an “attack on women’s health care.”
In Texas, for instance, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an extreme abortion law last month, effectively banning the procedure at six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they’re pregnant. And in Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill that would revoke the medical license of doctors who perform abortions unless it’s to protect the mother’s life.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to consider a pivotal case on a Mississippi ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, marking the first time the nation’s highest court will consider an abortion ban since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973.
Blumenthal warned that the conservative-leaning court’s decision could “not only chip away, but potentially overrule Roe v. Wade — at the very least, do profound damage to it.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act, first introduced by Blumenthal in 2013, has repeatedly been reintroduced in new congressional sessions since. So far in the current Congress, the bill has 176 co-sponsors in the House and 45 co-sponsors in the Senate. While Democrats hold a majority in the House, such contentious legislation will face tougher odds in the tightly divided Senate.
In Tuesday’s virtual presser, co-sponsor Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) noted that restrictions on abortion disproportionately impact low-income women and women of color.
“It’s a sad fact that in this country, if you are white, rich, well-connected, abortion will always be available to you,” Chu said. “But we need [this legislation] to ensure that no matter where you live, what your background is ... you have the same rights to make decisions about your own body as anyone else.”