Democrats, including President Biden, are urging Congress to pass legislation codifying Roe V. Wade after the Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to Texas’ new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, or SB8, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks, and also gives individuals the right to sue abortion clinics or those who help mothers get abortions in the state.
The law went into effect Wednesday after the Supreme Court chose not to act on a last-minute petition to block it.
Democrats have responded by pushing for Congress to pass a version of the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the country in 1973. However, the bill’s passage remains a long shot as long as the Senate filibuster remains in place.
“So, our focus and the president’s focus is to reiterate our deep commitment to the constitutional right — of course, established by Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago — and to continue to call for the codification of Roe, something that the president talked about on the campaign trail, the vice president talked about on the campaign trail,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Wednesday.
Biden said in a statement Thursday that his administration is “deeply committed” to abortion rights and that he has directed his Gender Policy Council and Office of the White House Counsel to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice “to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement Thursday slamming the Supreme Court as “radically partisan” and said the issue would be taken up in the House when it returns to session Sept. 20.
“SB8 delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities,” Pelosi said. “SB8 is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.
“Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America,” she said.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., tweeted Thursday: “The Supreme Court’s stunning decision to ignore 50 years of precedent and decline to block an extreme 6 week abortion ban is a devastating blow to reproductive freedoms in the U.S. Congress must act to codify Roe v Wade now.”
Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., tweeted Wednesday: “If the Supreme Court won’t protect #RoeVWade, Congress must. Abolish the filibuster and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act so we can ensure reproductive rights for all women.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act was reintroduced in June and would establish the legal right to abortion in all 50 states under federal law. It has 176 original cosponsors in the House and 48 supporters in the Senate, falling short of the simple majority needed to pass. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania have not supported the bill.