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House Democrats advance bills to bolster abortion access

Protesters for abortion rights pass by the Supreme Court before conducting a non-violent protest outside the Senate office buildings on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Greg Nash
Protesters for abortion rights pass by the Supreme Court before conducting a non-violent protest outside the Senate office buildings on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

House Democrats on Wednesday advanced two bills that seek to bolster abortion rights, less than one month after the Supreme Court issued a ruling that reversed Roe v. Wade.

The House voted 217-204 in a party-line vote on the rule to set up debate for the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act. Three other bills were also included in the rule.

Seven Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously said votes would be held on the legislation this week.

The Women’s Health Protection Act, which the House has approved in the past, calls for codifying abortion rights into federal law and strengthening protections that were included in the Roe decision.

The House cleared the legislation in September, but it faced headwinds in the Senate, where Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) blocked it twice — first in February and again in May.

The second bill — the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act — seeks to safeguard women who travel to receive an abortion if their state bans the medical procedure. In states where abortion is legal, it would make it unlawful for facilities to restrict access to the procedure for individuals who do not live in that state.

The bill also offers protections for individuals who help others receive an abortion out of state, and safeguards the movement in interstate commerce of abortion drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

If passed by the House both bills are likely to again face obstacles in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed for passage due to the legislative filibuster.

Consideration of the bills comes almost three weeks after the Supreme Court angered many Democrats by overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a constitutional right.

And in a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas backed overturning Supreme Court decisions that protect access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights.

During debate on the rule Wednesday, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) said the pair of abortion bills are a “critical part” of giving families the freedom to make decisions.

“These attacks on our essential American freedoms cannot stand. Our families and freedoms are on the line and it’s more important than ever that we fight to protect and expand reproductive freedom,” she said on the House floor.

“The bills we are considering today are a critical part of the fight for a world where all Americans, no matter who they are, where they live, or what they believe, have the freedom to make their own decisions about if and when to start or grow a family,” she added.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who practiced medicine as an obstetrician/gynecologist before being elected to Congress in 2002, spoke about his experience as a doctor in remarks opposing the rule.

“My belief in the right to life has influenced my professional career for much longer than my time in Congress. And I will remain committed to that,” Burgess said on the House floor during debate.

“After a lifetime dedicated to pro-life work, there is no question it is just the right thing to do. You always err on the side of life, you always give life a chance,” he added.

The rule under consideration on Wednesday also set up debate for the Active Shooter Alert Act, the Honoring our PACT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act.

Tags abortion rights Clarence Thomas Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Ensuring Access to Abortion Act. Joe Manchin Mary Gay Scanlon Michael Burgess Nancy Pelosi Roe v. Wade Women’s Health Protection Act
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