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Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Congress is seeing a flurry of action on reproductive health as Democrats highlight ongoing concerns over the impact of abortion restrictions and raise the specter of a GOP takeover in 2024.
Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other House Democrats on Thursday plan to introduce new abortion legislation designed to address disparities in reproductive health care access. The bill would guarantee a federal right to abortion and miscarriage care and protect patients and health care providers from criminalization, among other provisions.
Separately, House Democratic leaders are also trying to force a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect abortion access up to the point of fetal viability.
While Republicans hold a majority in the House — and so are largely in charge of what is brought to the floor — Democrats control the upper chamber. Senate Democrats marked one year since the fall of Roe v. Wade by bringing forward four reproductive rights proposals, forcing Republicans to take a stand on bills to enshrine the right to birth control, guarantee the right to travel to another state for an abortion, protect doctors performing legal abortions from liability, and shield personal data from abortion-related investigations.
None of the proposed measures is expected to move forward in either chamber — but together they are meant to spotlight Republican’s opposition to measures that expand abortion access. They also highlight the potential of federal reproductive rights proposals as Republican-led states continue to tighten restrictions on abortions.
On Saturday, the country will mark one year since the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which did away with the constitutional right to an abortion and thrust the issue to the political fore. Heading into the 2024 elections, Democrats are betting the issue will only grow as a political liability for Republicans in Congress.
“Republicans, no matter how much they tell you they’re moderate, are falling in line and are voting against women and against families’ ability to make decisions about their own health,” Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois told The 19th.
Pressley’s new bill, the Abortion Justice Act, is set to be unveiled during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning. The legislation, which Pressley’s office called “groundbreaking,” would also require that insurance plans cover abortions, improve immigrant families’ access to the procedure and address systemic racial disparities in reproductive health care.
The legislation would call for federal funding for abortion-related training, research, outreach, doula care and innovation.
“The inequities and disparities in our healthcare system that harm our most marginalized are only amplified when it comes to abortion care,” Pressley’s office said in a document describing the bill. “It is past time to speak plainly about abortion justice.”
In the Senate, Democrats used the majority to force Republicans to speak on the issue for over an hour Wednesday afternoon.
“Republicans have basically adopted two approaches to the health care crisis they caused: one, double down with increasingly extreme and dangerous proposals, or two, stick their heads in the sand, whether that means pretending this isn’t a problem, hoping it will fade away,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a leading Democratic voice on reproductive rights, said on the Senate floor Wednesday evening. The four bills brought to the Senate floor by her party would have required the unanimous consent of the chamber to move forward; Republicans united to block them.
Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, the state where the Dobbs case originated, said she had prayed for 50 years for the fall of the Roe decision; Saturday marks a day of celebration. She said Democrats’ efforts Wednesday intended to “treat abortion as health care.” Democrats agree.
Senate Democrats this week also announced a public hearing scheduled for the fall that will examine how the end of Roe v. Wade “caused a full-fledged and worsening health crisis that is threatening women’s lives, burdening our health care system, and inflicting trauma and tremendous harm on families and providers throughout our entire country,” Murray and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate health and education panel, said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the administration’s efforts on reproductive rights, will deliver a speech on the issue in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday. Harris is also joining President Joe Biden, the Democratic National Committee and major abortion rights groups for an event in Washington, D.C., on Friday.