Senate Republicans, Special Guest Villain Joe Manchin Block Abortion Rights Bill
Last September, in response to a surge in GOP forced birth bills, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would legalize abortion access at the federal level while blocking the draconian abortion bans that several states have already implemented.
The Women’s Health Protection Act officially died in the Senate Monday when all Republicans and Democrat after a fashion Joe Manchin blocked consideration of the bill. It wasn’t going anywhere anyway because of the damn filibuster but Manchin couldn’t resist extending the middle finger to people who prefer controlling their own bodies. He’s long maintained an anti-abortion position, including supporting a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
PREVIOUSLY: The Supreme Court Just Let Texas Outlaw Abortion
NBC News political reporter Sahil Kapur observed that the bill’s defeat "leaves Congress with no viable path to keeping abortion legal nationally” if the Supreme Court guts Roe v. Wade, which seems highly likely. Conservatives have a 6 to 3 majority, and Chief Justice John Roberts is the closest we have now to a “swing vote.” That’s how grim the shit is.
46-48: The Senate vote to invoke cloture on Roe v Wade codification fails. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) only Dem to vote no.\n\nAs @sahilkapur noted, "It leaves Congress with no viable path to keeping abortion legal nationally if SCOTUS guts Roe."pic.twitter.com/jDbMRPbfjn— The Recount (@The Recount) 1646096887
The Women’s Health Protection Act would’ve eliminated antiabortion restrictions that had no medical basis. This includes mandatory waiting periods (perversely in states where you can buy a gun on your lunch break), antiabortion “counseling,” telemedicine bans, and "various regulations on the layout, structure and staffing policies at abortion clinics, which have forced many clinics to shutter,” as is their obvious intent.
It’s all good, practical stuff that respects basic human freedom but even without the filibuster, Democrats didn’t have 50 votes to pass the bill. Sure, Manchin’s a sack of garbage but so-called “pro-choice” Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins also voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act for reasons that don’t hold up under much scrutiny.
Murkowski wrote in a statement:
I have long supported a woman’s right to choose, but my position is not without limits, and this partisan Women’s Health Protection Act simply goes too far. It would broadly supersede state laws and infringe on Americans’ religious freedoms.
Religious zealots want the “freedom” to force people to give birth against their will. Pagans aren’t dragging unwilling fundamentalists to abortion clinics. Murkowski can get the fuck out of here about “religious freedoms.”
Collins told the LA Times last September that she opposed the Women’s Health Protection Act because she claimed it would weaken existing law that ensures health professionals who object to abortion are not required to perform them or otherwise participate. They could instead remove bullets from serial killers and any number of surgical procedures they might find morally objectionable but do anyway because of the whole Hippocratic Oath thing.
As Robyn previously explained, Collins is full of crap. Nothing in the WHPA forces people to participate in abortions. That’s an unlikely scenario anyway, as someone who opposes abortion probably wouldn’t work in an abortion clinic where most abortions are performed.
Instead, the Women's Health Protection Act bars the government from limiting health care providers from performing abortions before viability, including with made-up rules regarding unnecessary medical tests (your transvaginal ultrasounds and such) or rules about how wide the hallways must be at abortion clinics, etc. It confirms a health care provider's right to perform an abortion; it doesn't mandate that anyone do so.
Murkowski and Collins have proposed an alternate amendment codifying Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which is also on the chopping block. The amendment is as useless as they are because it wouldn’t directly address the ways that those protections have been narrowed over subsequent decades.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked on the Senate floor Monday that "it’s a dark, dark time for women’s reproductive rights.” Dude sounds like a Star Wars opening crawl but he’s not that far off the mark. The Supreme Court could overturn Roe in a matter of months, a shocking event that no one could’ve seen coming except for Hillary Clinton every day of her 2016 presidential campaign.
My former senator, Patty Murray from Washington, defiantly told NBC News: “This is day one. We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to go away. I don’t want to go back to the old days where abortions occurred unsafely, women died. I’m going to keep fighting and I want Americans fighting with us.”
Get to the polls in November and elect more affirmatively pro-choice Democrats so we can safely toast Manchin’s loss in 2024.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."