WASHINGTON (AP) — On a party-line vote, House Democrats passed legislation Friday that, if passed by the Senate, would nullify most state pro-life laws and legalize abortion up to birth nationwide. But the bill’s 218-211 approval is mostly symbolic, as Republican opposition will doom it in the Senate.
Still, Democrats say they are doing all they can to codify the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision after the Supreme Court recently allowed the Texas law banning abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. The court will hear arguments in December in a separate Mississippi bid to overturn the landmark decision.
Codifying the Roe ruling would mean creating a right to abortion in federal law, a monumental change that would make it harder for courts and states to impose restrictions.
Republicans, including the few who favor abortion rights, overwhelmingly voted against the legislation, which would supersede state laws on the subject, give health care providers the right to perform abortions and patients the right to receive them. Republicans argue it would prevent states from setting requirements like parental involvement and could weaken laws that allow doctors to refuse to perform an abortion.
The legislation “isn’t about freedom for women, it’s about death for babies,” said Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. She said it would eliminate protections for women and girls who may be coerced into having abortions.
“It ends the life of a living human being with a plan and a purpose from God and who deserves to live,” Hartzler said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that congressional action would make a “tremendous difference” in Democrats’ efforts to maintain access to abortion rights. She called the Supreme Court’s decision “shameful” and counter to its own precedent.
Pelosi said just ahead of Friday’s vote that it should “send a very positive message to the women of our country — but not just the women, to the women and their families, to everyone who values freedom, honors our Constitution and respects women.”
The vote came as Democrats have spoken boldly about fighting the Supreme Court but struggled privately to find an effective strategy. They control Congress by the slimmest of margins, including the evenly split 50-50 Senate, making the prospects of a successful legislative response difficult.