The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that granted abortion rights (if not practical access) to all Americans regardless of their state of residence. The majority of justices decided in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the Mississippi government’s desire to impose a 15-week abortion ban on people in that state usurped Mississippians’ privacy, reproductive freedom, and bodily autonomy. Their decision is devastating.
There is, however, a bill in both houses of Congress that could reinstate national abortion rights: the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). WHPA passed in the House of Representatives in September 2021. A new version of the bill was introduced on July 7, and the House voted to pass it on July 15. WHPA was defeated twice this year in the Senate—in February and in May—with every Republican voting to kill the bill and every Democrat except Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting in favor of it.
WHPA prohibits governments from restricting medical providers from prescribing abortion-inducing medications (mifepristone and misoprostol), providing abortion care via telemedicine, or delaying abortions to patients whose health is at risk. WHPA also bars governments from requiring medical providers to put patients through unnecessary procedures or to give patients inaccurate medical information. Additionally, WHPA bans governments from singling out abortion providers for credentialing that isn’t also required of providers “whose services are medically comparable to abortions.” Finally, WHPA forbids governments from banning abortion before fetal viability (22-24 weeks’ gestation). The full text of the bill is available here.
The original House version of the bill, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27), passed 218–211 on September 24, 2021. The post-Roe version of the House bill, also introduced by Rep. Chu, passed 219–210 on July 15, 2022. The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), was defeated, 46–48 (6 senators didn’t vote), on February 28, 2022, and again, 49–51, on May 11, 2022.
When Roe v. Wade fell, 13 states—Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming—immediately outlawed abortion through “trigger bans.” Another 13 states have bans that were unconstitutional under Roe, both those that existed before 1973 and those that were written into law after 1973 but were blocked by courts.
With 35 Senate seats up for grabs in this November’s midterm elections, it’s crucial that we elect senators who will support WHPA the next time the bill is considered for a vote.
Every single House seat is up for election in November. We must hold the majority so the House of Representatives can pass WHPA again when it’s introduced in the next Congress.
President Biden has committed to signing the bill into law once it’s passed by both houses of Congress.