High-ranking Democrats pledged to do everything in their power to preserve the legal right to abortion following the draft leak from the Supreme Court, though the party lacks the necessary support in Congress to solidify that right.
Biden administration officials and Democrats in Congress were caught off guard by Monday’s draft decision leak in which the high court appeared poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, but members of the party were quick to voice their outrage and pledge action.
“We are going to double down on the effort to make sure that the legal rights of all Americans, women to access the care that they’re entitled to continues forward,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra told Senate Appropriations Committee members.
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President Joe Biden, who is now caught in the crosshairs of the progressive wing of his party, called the draft leak a “radical decision” that could imperil other rights established in previous Supreme Court rulings, such as the right to contraception and marriage equality.
“If what is written is what remains, it goes far beyond the concern of whether or not there is the right to choose. It goes to other basic rights: the right to marry, the right to determine a whole range of things,” Biden said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded the same alarm earlier this week in Seattle, saying, “This is an assault on privacy. Who knows what's next … marriage equality? There's so many things that are rooted in privacy in the Constitution that they could go after now.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will force a vote on legislation that would codify abortion rights into federal law Wednesday, when it is sure to fail due to the requisite 60-vote threshold. The vote is little more than a political message ahead of the final decision from the court and midterm elections in November.
“We will vote to protect a woman's right to choose, and every American is going to see on which side every senator stands,” Schumer said.
Schumer is teeing up a vote on the Women’s Health Production Act, which would create a statutory right to the procedure without restrictions and hoops for women to jump through, such as multiple doctor visits prior to the procedure, mandatory ultrasounds, and waiting periods. If passed, the law would supersede state laws regulating the procedure, such as gestational limits.
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The legislation is not expected to gain approval from centrist Republicans who support abortion rights, such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who object to the lack of protections in the bill for healthcare providers who refuse to perform the procedure on religious grounds. Centrist Democrat Joe Manchin (D-WV) would not say whether he would support the measure this time around, having voted against it in February.
Democrats know they will need more people on their side if they want to codify the 1973 decision, but the president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterm elections, something Democrats cannot afford.