The Senate Just Failed to Pass an Abortion Rights Bill. Here’s Why That’s Not All Bad For Democrats

Proposals to ensure access to abortion in all 50 states failed after they were put up for procedural votes by the Senate.

Voting ended at 46-48 against the bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), meaning Democrats could not open debate on the legislation. The bill had not been expected to advance in the closely divided Senate—but as the Supreme Court weighs a case that could unravel abortion rights in the U.S., Democratic leaders are hoping to leverage the vote as a key messaging tool as they head into this year’s midterm elections.

“The American people deserve to see that while Democrats are fighting to protect their constitutional rights, Republicans are hoping the Supreme Court rolls back Roe and are actively blocking Congress from acting to protect reproductive rights,” Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the bill’s lead sponsors in the Senate, told TIME before the vote.
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The Supreme Court considers a The case was focused on the Mississippi lawIt would prohibit abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. This spring’s expected ruling could overturn or weaken the 1973 decision Roe Vs. WadeIt established the Constitution’s right to choose. Republican-controlled states are also rushing to pass a host of other abortion restrictions in anticipation that the Court will rule in Mississippi’s favor. Six months have passed since Texas’ six-week abortion ban. Private citizens are responsible for enforcing the law. Other states want to emulate Texas’ lead by limiting abortions in aggressiveer ways.

Federal legislation is seen by abortion rights activists as their best chance to codify the right of abortion permanently. But it’s unlikely to become law anytime soon. Although the House of Representatives approved the bill in September they needed 10 Republican votes in order to move the bill into the Senate. The bill will need 60 votes in order to be passed because of filibuster.

Forty-eight Senators—46 Democrats and two Independents—signed on as cosponsors of the WHPA, making Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania the only Democrats not to explicitly endorse it. Casey voted in favor of allowing debate. He spoke.In advance, he said that he would. Republican senators Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine have a history of supporting abortion rights. They introduced an amendment before the vote which would codify. RoeThey would eliminate portions of the WHPA they deemed excessively broad. They voted in favor of the bill.

It was originally introduced in Congress in 2013. However, it was not until Texas passed the ban on abortion within six weeks of gestation that the bill was allowed to go to a vote. Monday’s milestone vote by the Senate was celebrated by Democrats, who condemned the Republican counterparts for denying debate.

This vote comes at a really critical time,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a press conference ahead of the vote. “Republicans are actually hoping Roe will fall. And of course we know that’s been their plan all along. Republicans made it clear they wanted a world where women, and politicians, could decide how they live their lives. That is not what the vast majority of Americans want.”

The bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal went further. “We’re going to hold accountable every senator who votes against this bill. Make no mistake, reproductive freedoms will be on the ballot this November,” he said at the news conference.

According to Democratic pollster Celinda lake, this was the most positive outcome for Democrats, regardless of the result. This could even help Democrats in their campaign against Republicans. “It’s laying the groundwork for a very powerful contrast,” she says.

“One of the biggest problems we have is convincing voters that any rights they have would ever be taken away, or that we would ever backtrack,” Lake adds. While most Americans don’t list abortion as their top concern when voting, the majority do opposeThis can be done by turning Roe vs. Wade With this vote, Lake says that Democrats can run campaign ads or tell constituents that their Republican opponents not only don’t support abortion rights, but also that they are serious about removing the right at the national level.

The message can be “they really mean that,” Lake says. “The Supreme Court made this decision, they already voted the legislation down. They mean it. They’re really going to act on it unless you fire them.”


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