House votes to restore abortion access nationwide

The vote marks the beginning of a new era in the abortion debate as lawmakers, governors and lawmakers grapple with the overthrow of Roe v. Settling Wade through the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON — The House has voted in the first legislative response by Democrats to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade voted to restore abortion rights nationwide.

The bill has little chance of becoming law because it lacks the necessary support in the 50-50 Senate. But the vote marks the beginning of a new era in the debate, with lawmakers, governors and lawmakers grappling with the implications of the court’s decision.

Legislation passed 219-210. The House of Representatives also passed a second bill to prohibit punishing a woman or child who chooses to travel to another state to have an abortion, 223-205.

“Just three weeks ago, the Supreme Court destroyed fundamental rights by finding Roe v. Wade,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote as she gathered with other Democratic women on the steps of the Capitol. “It is outrageous that 50 years later, women are again having to fight for our most basic rights before an extremist court.”

Republicans strongly opposed the bills, praising the Supreme Court’s decision and warning that the legislation would go further in legalizing abortion than Roe ever did.

GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington urged her peers to vote no, calling abortion “the biggest human rights issue of our generation.”

She said democratic legislation “has nothing to do with protecting women’s health. It has everything to do with imposing an extreme agenda on the American people.”

By overthrowing Roe, the court has allowed states to enact strict abortion restrictions, including many previously considered unconstitutional. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

A number of GOP-controlled states have already moved quickly to restrict or ban abortion, while states controlled by Democrats have tried to lobby for access. Voters now rank abortion as one of the country’s most pressing issues, a shift in priorities Democrats hope will tilt the political landscape in their favor for the midterm elections.

This is the second time the House of Representatives has passed legislation that would expand the protections Roe previously provided by banning what proponents call medically unnecessary restrictions that block access to safe and accessible abortions. It would prevent abortion bans before 24 weeks, when it is widely believed that fetal viability, the ability of a human fetus to survive outside the womb, begins. It allows exceptions for fetal viability abortions when a provider determines that the mother’s life or health is at risk.

The Democrats’ proposal would also prevent states from requiring providers to share “medically inaccurate” information, or requiring additional testing or waiting times, which are often aimed at dissuading a patient from having an abortion.

The law, which would prohibit penalties for traveling abroad, would also state that doctors cannot be penalized for providing reproductive care outside of their home state. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, one of the authors of the bill, said the travel threats “do not reflect the fundamental rights afforded in our Constitution.”

Democrats have highlighted the case of a 10-year-old girl who had to cross state lines to Indiana to get an abortion after being raped, citing it as an example of how the court’s decision is already having serious consequences.

“We don’t have to imagine why that might matter. We don’t have to conjure up hypotheses. We already know what happened,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in the Senate on Thursday.

“Should the right of the next little 10-year-old, the right of the 12-year-old, or the right of the 14-year-old to the care they desperately need be jeopardized?”

The Constitution does not specifically say that travel between states is a right, although the Supreme Court has said it is a right that has been “well established and repeatedly recognised”. However, the court has never said exactly where the right to travel came from, and that could leave it open to challenge or elimination, as was the right to an abortion.

For example, earlier this year the Missouri legislature considered making it illegal to “assist or encourage” abortions that violate Missouri law, even if they take place out of state. The proposal was eventually shelved.

Democrats have more bills tabled for passage in the coming weeks. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday the House of Representatives will vote next week on legislation guaranteeing a right to contraception.

Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford, who supports the introduction of a statewide abortion ban, Thursday accused his peers across the aisle of wanting to “inflame” the abortion issue. He said supporters of the travel law should ask themselves, “Does the unborn child have the right to travel in their future?”

Only two Senate Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, support abortion rights, but they do not support the Democrats’ proposal, calling it too far-reaching. Among other things, they have introduced alternative legislation that would prevent states from “unreasonably burdening” a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion before the viability of the fetus.

On Thursday, when Pelosi pressed whether Democrats should work with the two senators, she pushed back, “We will not negotiate a woman’s right to vote.”

Since the court’s ruling last month, some activists have accused President Joe Biden and other senior Democrats of not responding vigorously to the decision. Biden, who denounced the court’s ruling as “extreme,” issued an executive order last week intended to avert some potential penalties that women seeking an abortion may face. His government has also warned medical providers that if the mother’s life is in danger, they must offer an abortion.

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

“We need to elect a few more Democratic senators so we can bypass the filibuster so we can pass legislation that really affects a woman’s right to vote,” she said. “There are no half measures.”

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report. House votes to restore abortion access nationwide

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