Democratic lawmakers in Congress have proposed a few responses to a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows an anti-abortion law in Texas to remain in place, but they will likely require centrists in the party and President Joe Biden to take on the dreaded Senate filibuster.
The ruling from the Supreme Court, in which five conservative bloc justices voted against placing an injunction on Texas’s Senate Bill 8, was widely panned for effectively dismantling longstanding federal abortion protections in the state.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced on Thursday that the House would vote, within two weeks upon lawmakers’ return from legislative recess, on the Women’s Health Protection Act.
“Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The bill would protect abortion access across the entire country, and would disallow several state-imposed restrictions on reproductive care, including 20-week bans, mandatory ultrasounds, or counseling that discourages individuals through shaming against getting an abortion.
Several progressive Democrats in Congress are also proposing an expansion of the Supreme Court to defend the rights of Americans.
“We must expand and reform the Supreme Court. Millions of lives are at stake,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), noting that, beyond abortion, the Court will also likely rule soon on voting, workers’, and other civil rights protections.
Whether by legislation or by expanding the size of the Court, both measures will face fierce opposition from Republicans, particularly in the Senate where GOP lawmakers can use the filibuster to block either route.
Biden has said he’s reluctant to call for reforming the filibuster, much less for its abolition. And centrist Democrats in the chamber have also indicated that that’s a non-starter.
Biden, for his own part, announced Thursday that he’s directing departments and agencies within his administration to look into how the state can protect abortion access for individuals in Texas and elsewhere following the ruling.
Biden plans to “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision.” That includes directing the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to find ways “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
Recent polling shows that the vast majority of Americans, nearly nine-in-ten voters, oppose abortion legislation similar to the Texas law that was enacted this week. An NBC News Survey conducted in mid-August found that 54 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal always or most of the time. Just 34 percent said it should be illegal in most cases but allowed in some circumstances, including rape or incest, which the Texas law does not allow for. A mere 8 percent said it should be illegal in all circumstances.