Jan 19, 2024 - Health

Roe anniversary reheats abortion wars

Illustration of a red caduceus crossed with a blue caduceus.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Roe v. Wade may be history but Monday's anniversary of the 1973 decision is providing a potent rallying point for both sides in the abortion wars.

Driving the news: Amid a showdown over funding the government, House Republican leaders brought up a pair of symbolic bills they said would protect pregnant women's rights but that Democrats contend would further erode abortion access.

  • They're the first such measures under Speaker Mike Johnson and stand no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate or with President Biden. And they served to elevate an issue that's been toxic for the GOP in post-Roe elections and that Republicans in swing districts would just as soon avoid.
  • But the priority assigned to them signals that the GOP majority isn't finished, and perhaps telegraphs a new legislative twist less focused on restrictions on the procedure.
  • "We are working on the next chapter of our pro-life movement," said Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) at a Thursday press conference.

Of note: Neither measure is an abortion ban. One would increase protections and resources for college or university students who carry a pregnancy to term.

  • The second would allow states to allocate Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to "crisis pregnancy centers" — nonprofits that aim to dissuade pregnant people from having an abortion. The Biden administration last year proposed limiting federal funds for the facilities, which abortion rights advocates say often use misleading information.
  • Both bills passed the House on Thursday along party lines.

The big picture: Roe's anniversary also is serving as a rallying point in battleground states.

  • The annual Women's March is being held this weekend in Phoenix, in a state that could decide control of the Senate and may put abortion rights on the ballot in November.
  • Democrats will kick off their own campaign next week, with appearances by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and a new ad blitz focused on reproductive rights. The first events are in Wisconsin and Virginia.
  • Democrats contend measures like the House bills are prelude to a nationwide abortion ban and wager the issue could fuel enough voter backlash to flip control of the House.
  • "Speaker Johnson and anti-choice extremists are pushing two more anti-abortion measures onto the House floor, continuing their march towards a total, national abortion ban," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said.
  • Democratic senators held a briefing this week during which they highlighted how abortion bans have eroded women's health in the states where they've been enacted.

Abortion foes' latest push, in part, seeks to tap growing public skepticism of higher education, including complaints from the right about "wokeness" and free speech.

  • The House bill on pregnant students' rights notes that students may "face pressure that their only option is to receive an abortion or risk academic failure," so colleges should be required to detail resources and accommodations, as well as how to file complaints if there's a violation of rights.
  • "We should all agree that pregnant students deserve better connections to resources available. And we should be a country that empowers mothers on campus and supports them with resources and information," said E.V. Osment, vice president of communications for SBA Pro-Life America.

What's next: Republican lawmakers are still facing a major intraparty fight over anti-abortion policies after Congress on Thursday approved a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open through early March.

  • House conservatives are insisting on attaching to full-year spending bills anti-abortion riders, such as limits on the abortion pill mifepristone, that are nonstarters with Democrats.

A version of this story was published first on Axios Pro. Unlock more news like this by talking to our sales team.

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