House approves pair of bills to protect abortion access after collapse of Roe v Wade

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemns ‘cruel Republican crusade to criminalise women’

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 15 July 2022 19:46 BST
Nancy Pelosi smiles as House votes in favour of Ensuring Access to Abortion Act
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The US House of Representatives passed two bills aimed at protecting abortion access across the US, the chamber’s first legislative attempts to bolster reproductive healthcare and secure abortion rights in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v Wade.

The votes on 15 July came exactly three weeks after the Supreme Court revoked a constitutional right to abortion care in a ruling on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The Women’s Health Protection Act – which would codify a right to abortion care – cleared the House for a second time by a vote of 219-210, with all but one Democratic members voting in support.

Republicans in the US Senate have repeatedly obstructed the bill’s introduction in the upper chamber.

Another bill – Ensuring Access to Abortion Act – passed by a vote of 223-205, with only three Republicans joining all Democrats voting in its favour.

That bill would protect the right of abortion patients who live in states that have outlawed or severely restricted care to travel to other states without risking prosecution or legal action in their home states.

The legislation also protects providers and others who help patients travelling out-of-state for their care.

The bill also shields interstate shipments of US Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs used for medication abortion – the most common form of abortion care, accounting for more than half of all abortions in the US.

Both bills will face enormous obstacles in the US Senate, where Republicans routinely filibuster Democratic-supported measures in the evenly divided chamber, without at least 10 Republican senators joining in support.

In remarks before the votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned anti-abortion laws across the US “eviscerating” a half-century of protections for abortion care, which she said is “only the opening act of the cruel Republican crusade to criminalise women”.

“House Republicans overwhelmingly oppose our legislation and make clear they don’t want anyone to access reproductive care, anywhere,” she said, adding that a “radical Republican party seeks to wind back the clock.”

Nancy Pelosi says Supreme Court threw ‘wrecking ball’ at abortion rights ahead of vote on women's rights

“What in the world is happening to our democracy?” said US Rep Barbara Lee of California. “First of all you’re taking away the ability to make our own reproductive healthcare decisions ... You’re trying to set up an environment for people to spy on each other ... What in the world is this? Is this America? … This is a slippery slope. They come for me today, they come for you tomorrow.”

In May, Senate Republicans along with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin blocked a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act. This week, Republican Senator James Lankford also blocked a Senate version of a bill to affirm protections for patients crossing state lines for abortion care.

President Joe Biden has indicated support for amending Senate filibuster rules for the sake of preserving abortion access, while his administration acts on a series of measures laid out in an executive order aimed at protecting patients and providers. The White House also is reportedly discussing whether to declare the nation’s increasingly fractured access to abortion care a public health emergency.

Next week, House Democrats will introduce legislation to protect access to contraception.

“American women deserve to be able to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives, including whether to become pregnant and have children,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.

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