Legislation to codify the Roe v. Wade protections for abortion rights can’t pass the U.S. Senate, so why will the Senate consider it?
The Women’s Health Protection Act is actually scheduled for a vote today.
The outcome is as certain as it was in February, when the Senate last tried to write abortion protection into federal law.
The bill failed then and will fail again. And everyone involved knows it.
Yet, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., set up the vote.
“Every American will see how every senator stands,” he said, calling this one of the most important votes senators will ever take “because it deals with one of the most personal and difficult decisions a woman ever has to make in her life.”
He’s right about that. It’s why the reaction has been so intense across this country to last week’s leak of the draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that established a woman’s right to choose whether or not to end a pregnancy.
What had seemed likely after those telling court arguments late last year now seems certain with the court’s confirmation of the draft’s legitimacy.
The ruling isn’t final, but a majority of the court seems even more certain to erase the almost 50-year precedent than it was when the justices heard arguments in a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The Mississippi case had long been seen as the opportunity for this conservative-leaning court to reverse Roe.
It was after those arguments that the Senate tried again to codify Roe v. Wade.
Then, like now, Democratic senators wanted to be on record and to force Republicans to go on record on the always controversial abortion issue.
Then, like now, that’s actually all they can get out of this vote. But they can be sure that Americans are paying attention this time.
Actually, Republicans may be just as eager to be on record on this issue. They are against the bill and will filibuster it, which means the bill can’t pass without at least 60 votes in favor of it.
Democrats in this 50-50 Senate have too few votes to meet that bar and can’t manage enough votes to end the filibuster. They can’t even count on all Democrats to support the measure.
In February, on the heels of those Supreme Court arguments that convinced many that Roe v. Wade was in its last days, the Senate voted 46-49 to block the bill that would codify abortion rights into federal law.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined Republicans in the vote. His colleagues have since tried to amend the bill to satisfy some concerns, but that’s no guarantee they can get all the Democratic votes.
Presumably, we’ll find out today.
How any of the Senate members vote could conceivably impact how they fare when, and if, they next seek election.
Abortion is an issue that will drive voters to the polls — on both sides of the debate.
If the Supreme Court’s eventual decision is to overrule Roe and other precedents that ensured abortion rights, the battleground will shift to the Congress.
With the Supreme Court apparently ready to be shed of the issue, what has been a constitutional right for almost 50 years can only be preserved through law.
Never mind that anything one Congress does another Congress can undo. Or that the current Congress, with its close divide in both chambers, can’t seem to get much of anything done.
Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist. E-mail comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.