Federal legislation that would codify reproductive rights into law has once again failed to advance in the United States Senate, with right wing Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia joining every Republican in opposing it.
H.R. 3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, prohibits governmental restrictions on the provision of, and access to, abortion services, including medication abortion. It is sponsored by Representative Judy Chu of California and was previously passed by the House of Representatives last September.
With six senators missing, the final vote was 46 yeas to 48 nays.
Even if the bill had not been subjected to a filibuster and even if all senators had been present, the bill still would have failed due to Joe Manchin’s defection and Susan Collins’ refusal to support it. (Collins claims to be for reproductive rights, but as tonight’s vote demonstrated, that’s not true in practice.)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki lamented the unsuccessful vote.
“At a time when women’s access to reproductive health care is under increased assault in states across the country, it is extremely disappointing that Senate Republicans blocked passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would strengthen health care access and codify constitutional rights affirmed half a century ago by Roe v. Wade and in subsequent Supreme Court precedent.”
“Today, we mark six months since Texas law SB8 went into effect, brazenly violating Texans’ constitutional rights and empowering private citizens to act as bounty hunters against their neighbors,” Psaki observed.
“Now, a number of other states are also considering passing laws in open defiance of the U.S. Constitution, threatening the reproductive freedom of all Americans. These restrictions are particularly devastating for communities of color, rural Americans, and all those faced with fewer options and fewer resources.”
“As dangerous new laws proliferate in states across the country, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to explore the measures and tools at our disposal to stand up for women’s equality. This is a moment for us to recommit to strengthening access to women’s health care, defend the constitutional right affirmed by Roe, and protect the freedom of all people to build their own future.”
“Tonight, we voted in the Senate to say that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land,” said Senator Patty Murray, D‑Washington. “Democrats stood up and said women should make their own health care decisions. We trust women. We trust patients. We trust their doctors. We trust them to make their own decisions.”
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped fighting. We’re going to keep fighting to make sure that we protect women’s rights in this country. I know we’re all disappointed tonight but tonight is not the night to stand down. Tonight’s the night to stand up and keep fighting — not just for ourselves but for future generations.”
“We cannot go back in this country to a place where women’s health is at risk, where Roe is not the law of the land, where we have a time when women will get abortions and they will be at risk because it will be in an unsafe place. We are going to stand up and fight for them, and we ask you to join us too.”
“By failing to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Senate has decided that the government should come between a woman and her doctor,” said Senator Ron Wyden, D‑Oregon. “Roe v. Wade was decided almost fifty years ago, and yet in too many states, reproductive freedom is under attack.”
“Today the Senate had the opportunity to cement the right to an abortion into in federal law so that every American can access an essential service to control their bodies and their futures. I will keep fighting for access to safe, legal abortion, which is a critical part of healthcare.”
All of the Pacific Northwest’s Democratic senators voted yea on the bill, and all of the Republicans voted nay. As mentioned, Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only senator who didn’t vote along party lines. Here’s the abbreviated roll call:
Voting Yea (Pacific Northwest): Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR), Jon Tester (MT)
Voting Nay (Pacific Northwest): Republican Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (AK)
Also Nay, Crossing Party Lines: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV)
Not Voting: Democratic Senators Ben Ray Lujan (NM), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Raphael Warnock (GA); Republican Senators Rand Paul (KY), John Kennedy (LA), James Inhofe (OK)
To get a different outcome in the next Congress, Democrats would need to hold the House of Representatives and add at least two seats in the Senate to offset Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin’s opposition to reforming or eliminating the filibuster. A fifty-two seat majority would give the party fifty votes for rules changes, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie.
Democrats have feasible pickup opportunities in several swing states this cycle, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which voted for the Biden/Harris ticket in the 2020 presidential election. The party is only defending fourteen seats, while Republicans are defending twenty. None of the seats that Democrats are defending are in states where Donald Trump won the popular vote in 2020.