WASHINGTON – Washington’s Democratic senators on Tuesday pledged to block any effort by Republicans to further restrict abortion at the federal level after the Supreme Court last June overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which had protected the right to terminate a pregnancy – with some limitations – for nearly half a century.
Speaking in front of the Capitol after marking a somber 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision over the weekend, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell told reporters they would oppose Republican legislation in Congress to roll back abortion rights, something GOP legislatures have already begun to do at the state level.
“On Sunday, we should have been commemorating 50 years of Roe – 50 years of women having the constitutional right to make their own health care decisions,” Murray said. “Instead, it marked the first anniversary since Republicans overturned Roe, dragged us back half a century, struck down a constitutional right for the first time in our history, and passed ban, after ban, after deadly, dangerous abortion ban.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill in September that would make abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for victims of rape and incest. That legislation has no chance of passing in the Democratic-majority Senate and would face a veto by President Joe Biden, but its introduction made the stakes of the 2022 elections clear to abortion-rights supporters.
Many Democrats have attributed their better-than-expected performance in the midterm elections to a backlash to the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority overturning Roe, and voters supported abortion rights in ballot measures in six states – Montana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, California and Vermont.
“In November, Republicans, Democrats and independents made it clear it was not OK to overrun the rights of women in the United States of America,” Cantwell said, calling for Congress to pass a law to restore abortion rights across the country. Such a bill is sure to fail in the Republican-controlled House and doesn’t have the support needed to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate.
Cantwell highlighted the impact the end of federal abortion protections has had on states like Washington that border states where abortion is banned, such as Idaho, where state law allows terminating a pregnancy only in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
“After Roe v. Wade fell, Planned Parenthood in Eastern Washington reported a number of patients from Idaho jumping up to 78%,” she said. “This is now an ongoing crisis for our state’s reproductive health care system. People in Idaho are not going to stop getting pregnant, and they are not going to stop seeking the best medical care. They are going to cross our borders.”
Abortion-rights advocates point out that banning abortion also restricts other vital health care services, such as treatment for miscarriage, which can require the same procedures.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, a Democrat who represents southwest Washington, wrote Sunday on Twitter that after having a miscarriage in 2020, she had to travel hours to the nearest clinic that would perform a necessary procedure, where she encountered antiabortion protesters. Doctors told her, Gluesenkamp Pérez wrote, that without that care she could have died or been unable to give birth to her now 17-month-old son.
On Saturday, ABC News reported that an Idaho woman had to wait eight days – and make three trips to the hospital – before getting the care she needed for a miscarriage, due to the state’s restrictive abortion laws.
While most congressional Republicans celebrated the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, they have so far shown little appetite for passing sweeping abortion restrictions. Instead, the GOP-controlled House on Jan. 11 passed two narrow bills: One would require doctors to provide care for an infant who survives an attempted abortion – an extremely rare occurrence. The other condemned attacks on antiabortion “crisis pregnancy centers,” with Gluesenkamp Pérez one of just three Democrats who voted in favor of the nonbinding resolution.
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