The Senate is on track to hold a key vote Wednesday on a bill aimed at preserving access to abortion nationwide. It comes as the US Supreme Court may be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling as soon as next month, as indicated by a leaked draft opinion.
The vote is expected to fail amid widespread Republican opposition to the measure. As a result, the Senate will fall far short of the support needed to overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to pass most legislation in the chamber.
The bill’s failure to advance is set to underscore how Democrats are severely limited in what they can achieve with their narrow Senate majority even as the party faces enormous pressure to take action on abortion rights amid fears that Roe v. Wade will soon be struck down. But holding the vote will give Democrats a chance to spotlight the issue and criticize Republican resistance to passage of the legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote one of the “most important” senators will take, “not only this session, but in this century.”
“This is not an abstract exercise, it’s as real and as urgent as it gets,” Schumer said at a news conference on Friday.
The Senate will be voting to advance a version of the Women’s Health Protection Act sponsored by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. The bill would codify the right to access abortion into federal law and guarantee the right of health care providers to perform abortion services. A House-passed version of the bill failed to advance in the Senate earlier this year amid GOP opposition.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Democrats for forcing a vote this week codifying the Roe v. Wade decision, arguing that “it would attack Americans’ conscience rights and religious freedoms.”
“It would overturn modest and overwhelmingly popular safeguards like waiting periods, informed consent laws and possibly even parental notification,” McConnell said of Democrats’ bill in remarks on the Senate floor on Monday.
Bringing up the legislation also threatens to spotlight divisions among Democrats. Key moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who represents the red state of West Virginia and has previously described himself as “pro-life and proud of it,” voted with Republicans in opposition to the bill when it came before the Senate in February.
So far, Manchin has not said how he plans to vote on the Democratic bill when it comes up for a vote this week. On Tuesday, he indicated he is still considering how to vote. “We got some information. We’re going to have counsel sit down,” Manchin told reporters in the Capitol.
Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, rare Republican abortion-rights supporters, have introduced their own legislation to codify the rights established by Roe into federal law.
But both voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act in February. Last week, Collins argued the measure put forward by Democrats is too broad and raised concerns about it not including a so-called conscience clause, which would allow providers to refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons.
Asked at a news conference on Friday why he won’t instead bring the Collins and Murkowski bill to the floor, which could receive bipartisan support, Schumer said, “We are not looking to compromise something as vital as this.”
Earlier this week, more than a dozen abortion rights groups wrote a letter strongly opposing Murkowski and Collins’ bill, arguing it “would not protect the right to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overruled.”
Democrats have sounded the alarm and reacted with outrage in response to a recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion revealing plans to strike down Roe v. Wade after roughly five decades.
Republicans, despite many opposing abortion rights, have focused their response instead on the bombshell leak of the Supreme Court opinion, arguing that the leak itself represents a significant threat to judicial independence and freedom from outside interference.