A Republican-led filibuster blocked the passage of a bill that would have codified the tenets of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion rights and protections, which is currently at risk of being overturned by conservative justices.
The bill, titled the Women’s Health Protection Act, would have established a right to abortion care across the country. It also would have expanded abortion access by limiting how states can restrict the procedure, ending measures that seek to dissuade individuals from having an abortion, like mandated ultrasounds or biased counseling.
Notably, conservative Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) also voted in favor of the filibuster, defying his fellow party members in the Senate and choosing to shoot down what some observers have described as the last “viable path to keeping abortion legal.”
“Abortion is a fundamental right. Women’s decisions over women’s health care belong to women, not to extremist right-wing legislatures,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said ahead of the vote.
Although the outcome would have been the same if Manchin had chosen to side with his party, his decision to join the GOP in blocking legislation that would have enshrined the right to abortion in the U.S. was condemned by abortion rights activists.
“What’s the point of Joe Manchin?” asked podcast host and political commentator Danielle Moodie, noting that the senator “blocks abortion rights, voting rights, climate change and child tax credits” in Congress.
Although the measure was shot down by Manchin and Republicans, Monday’s vote was historic, marking the first Senate vote on codifying the protections established in Roe.
The bill, which already passed the House of Representatives, had 48 Democratic cosponsors in the Senate. Manchin and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) were the only Democrats who refused to endorse the bill. On Monday, Casey voted with his party to start debate on the bill.
Establishing a federal law on abortion is critical, especially as the Supreme Court is currently considering whether or not to keep Roe in place. If the Court overturns the half-century precedent that that ruling established, several states across the country would revert to pre-Roe laws that are still technically on the books, banning abortion outright.
Lawmakers and activists vowed to continue pushing for legislation recognizing abortion rights.
“The majority of Americans agree that Roe v. Wade should remain the law of the land and I’m going to keep fighting for this,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said.
“We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to go away,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) added.
“Although #WHPA failed to advance today because of opponents of abortion in the Senate, we will continue advocating for protection of abortion at the federal and state levels,” abortion provider and activist Kristyn Brandi said on Twitter. “Our patients deserve access to this safe, essential health care.”