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Largest US Nursing Union Calls for Ending Filibuster to Codify Abortion Rights

“Nurses understand that abortion is an essential part of health care,” officials from National Nurses United said.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on the Women's Health Protection Act, outside the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

The largest nursing union in the United States recently sent an open letter to lawmakers in the Senate, demanding that they pass a bill recognizing and protecting abortion rights — and calling on them to suspend the filibuster in order to do so.

National Nurses United (NNU) said in their letter that such a bill should not only protect the right to abortion, but also ensure that states cannot enact or enforce laws that seek to punish abortion providers within their jurisdictions.

Specifically, the organization is calling for the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which failed to pass earlier this year after Republicans (joined by right-wing Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia) used a filibuster to block debate on the legislation.

NNU called on senators “to take a stand for reproductive health justice” by passing WHPA, which President Joe Biden has pledged to sign into law if it reaches his desk.

“As members of a health care profession that is 90 percent female, nurses understand that abortion is an essential part of health care, and that a patient’s right to control their own body is at the very basis of a free and just society,” the letter said, adding that the union’s members understand that they have “a duty to advocate for our patients and their right to make their own health care decisions.”

The letter went on to say that:

The basic tenets of ethical health care dictate that patients should enjoy autonomy, self-determination, and dignity over their bodies, their lives, and the health care they receive. Registered nurses understand that abortion is a basic health care service, and codifying the protections established by Roe v. Wade would ensure that patients are able to choose what is best for them.

“Patients should have the right to seek abortion care with the counsel of a trusted healthcare provider regardless of where they live, and it is critical that Congress codify that right,” the NNU letter said.

The union directly referenced Biden’s call last week for a carveout to the filibuster in order to recognize and protect abortion rights.

“We stand with President Biden and urge you to suspend the filibuster to allow for a vote on this crucial legislation on the Senate floor without delay,” NNU officials said in the letter.

The suspension of the filibuster, which the union called an “anti-democratic Senate rule,” will be “required to secure a vote on this bill,” NNU officials said. The union said that the Senate should drop its use in order to pass the WHPA and to “[restore] full reproductive health rights to all Americans.”

This isn’t the first time that NNU has called for abolishing the filibuster. The union also demanded an end to the Senate rule in March 2021, noting at the time that it was being used to block labor laws, the expansion of health care coverage across the U.S., and bills intended to protect voting rights.

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