House Passes Bill Protecting Abortion Access in Direct Rebuke of New Texas Law
Written by Stacie Murphy, Director of Congressional Relations | Published: September 28, 2021
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). Sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), the bill would overrule most of the state-level abortion restrictions that have passed over the last few years and would prevent new ones from being imposed. The bill passed 218-211, with only one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, voting No, along with all House Republicans.
WHPA establishes a statutory right to abortion access free from medically unnecessary restrictions. It would prohibit measures like six-week bans, 20- week bans, biased or inaccurate “counseling” requirements, mandatory ultrasounds, hospital admitting privileges requirements for doctors, and waiting periods.
The decision to move the bill to the floor for a vote was a direct response to the new Texas “bounty” law (SB8), which empowers private citizens to sue anyone who “facilitates” an abortion after cardiac activity can be detected—at around six weeks into pregnancy. The Texas law has created a Byzantine process by which none of the usual actors (clinics, reproductive rights advocates, etc.) have been allowed to sue to stop the law. The Justice Department has stepped in, though it will likely take months for the legal process to play out.
In the meantime, the Texas statute remains in force, and reproductive rights supporters on the Hill are limited in what they can do to combat it. There is a Senate version of the Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1975, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut), but as long as the chamber continues to hold to the 60-vote threshold to defeat the filibuster and pass legislation, there’s no chance of the bill becoming law.