Aug 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Tim Kaine and Lisa Murkowski cosponsor bill to codify abortion rights

Illustration of a red caduceus crossed with a blue caduceus.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A bipartisan group of senators is leading a second attempt to codify federal abortion protections formerly provided by Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: Support across parties sets this effort apart from Democrats' last push on the issue, which didn't even win over all of the party's members.

  • Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are cosponsoring the bill with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Catch up fast: After a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade leaked in May, Democrats rushed to pass legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law.

  • The effort failed in the Senate, where it got just 49 of the 60 votes it needed to pass amid complaints the legislation went further than merely codifying Roe.
  • Among those who voted against it were Murkowski, Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

The compromise legislation attempts to find a middle ground by creating a federal right to abortion up to viability, while preserving conscience provisions that would continue to exempt health care providers with religious objections.

  • It would also require states to allow abortions post-viability to protect the health of the mother.

Of note: The legislation does not define viability, leaving it to a patients' health care provider to decide at which point "there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb."

What they're saying: Kaine acknowledges that the measure faces long odds in the Senate, but he tells Axios he's holding out hope that the shock of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe will create room for compromise.

  • He likened the moment to the unexpected passage of modest gun safety legislation after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
  • "We don't have 60 votes now, but we didn't have 60 votes on the gun bill a couple months ago," Kaine says. "That catastrophic nature — Dobbs and what it's going to do to the country — is going to push some people our way."
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