May 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Bill to protect abortion rights fails to pass Senate

Image of Chuck Schumer.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on May 5. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday failed to pass legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law, a move that was all but certainly destined to fail from the start.

Why it matters: The effort comes as Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights advocates are upping the ante on calls to pass legislation codifying abortion rights after a leaked Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • The bill would have banned states from putting any restrictions on abortion, including ones that fall short of a total ban.

State of play: Days after the leaked draft was published last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the Senate would vote to write abortion protections into federal law.

  • The measure fell 11 votes short of the 60 votes it needed to pass, as all Republicans voted against the measure, in addition to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who said the bill goes too far, CNN reports.
  • Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), two Republican senators who generally oppose abortion restrictions, also voted no on the measure, saying it's too expansive.

The big picture: Schumer still viewed the vote as one of "the most important we ever take," signaling to voters that Democratic lawmakers are fighting for reproductive rights heading into the midterm elections, the New York Times reports.

  • "Republicans will have two choices: They can own the destruction of women’s rights, or they can reverse course and work to prevent the damage," Schumer said last week.

What they're saying: "Republicans in Congress — not one of whom voted for this bill — have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives," President Biden said in a statement after the vote.

  • "To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law," Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris said after the vote Wednesday that "the Senate failed to stand in defense of a woman's right to make decisions about her own body."

  • The vote "clearly suggests that the Senate is not where the majority of Americans are on this issue," she added.
  • Harris said it's important for the American people to vote for "pro-choice leaders at the local, the state and the federal level."

The president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement: "Today, Americans saw which of their elected representatives will stand up for their reproductive freedom and which continue to be complicit in the attacks on their rights."

  • "But politicians opposed to abortion rights are not stopping here — they have made it clear that their ultimate goal is to ban abortion nationwide."
  • "We will not back down, and we will not forget those who put politics over our health and rights," Johnson said.

The president of National Right to Life Carol Tobias said in a statement that the legislation "would have made sweeping changes, including expanding taxpayer funding of abortion, and eliminating requirements that a woman be given information about the development of her unborn child so she can make an informed decision."

  • "The abortion zealotry of the Democrat majority in the Senate was on full display during today’s vote," Tobias added.

Schumer said on the Senate floor before the vote: "If we do not take a stand now to protect a woman's right to choose, then, mark my words, it will be open season on our God given freedoms."

  • "Today it will be Roe. Tomorrow it will be a national ban on abortion. And beyond that, something even more dreadful. We cannot allow this shameful backslide to happen," he said.

Go deeper ... What abortion access would look like if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information throughout.

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