How Biden could keep abortion legal even if Roe is overturned

Democratic Representative Judy Chu is the author of legislation that would codify Roe’s protections into law. Here’s what that means

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Wednesday 22 June 2022 12:56
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As the Supreme Court prepares to release its opinion on Dobbs v Jackson, which could very well consign Roe v Wade to history, The Independent will be running long interviews with leading voices on abortion rights.

Yesterday, we published a longer interview that I conducted with Democratic Representative Judy Chu, the author of legislation that would codify Roe’s protections into law. Here are some highlights.

On people who will flock to California from red states: Chu, whose district encompasses part of the Los Angeles area, told the story of a woman from Texas – a state that now restricts abortion after six weeks – who traveled to Pasadena when she was seven weeks pregnant to seek an abortion. “And so she just packed her three children up and husband up in the car, and drove 20 hours straight to Pasadena to get the abortion. And she was treated well in our city; she got the abortion. But nonetheless, can you imagine having to go through all that?”

The Senate morass on passing abortion rights: Last month, the legislation Chu authored failed in the Senate. The most powerful Joe in Washington, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, announced his opposition before the vote — but even if he had supported the bill, it would never have passed because he and Senator Kyrsten Sinema have opposed getting rid of the filibuster.

Nonetheless, Chu told us she is encouraged that President Joe Biden has said he would sign her bill. “And that is why it is such a crime that the Senate hasn’t passed this,” she said. “We have the House, we have the presidency, we don’t have the Senate. So that is the obstacle between having Roe v Wade reinstated by law, enshrined into law.”

What Biden can do for now: The lack of legislation means the federal government has limited options to push back against abortion bans passed in Republican-controlled states. But Chu laid out some options, such as Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” requirement and expanding the Title X family planning program.

“The other thing that we want President Biden to do,” she said, “is to make sure that the data privacy of those seeking reproductive healthcare, including abortions, is protected. Because there are those states that want to access this data, want to get the names and the addresses and numbers of those seeking abortions, and then seek to criminalize the abortion patients and providers.”

How the Democratic Party has changed on abortion: When Chu entered Congress, many members of the House Democratic majority that helped pass much of Barack Obama’s legislation were still opposed to abortion. But as the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition has become less rural and less suburban as a party, it’s become more unified on abortion. “And the reason that these numbers have increased is because of the vote of the people,” she told us.

Read our full interview with Chu here – and stay tuned for one later this week with Emily’s List president Laphonza Butler.

(And by the way, if you like reading our output as much as Ted Cruz, you should subscribe to our Inside Washington newsletter.)

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