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While this measure will almost certainly die in the Senate—as much good legislation does—it’s still Democrats last chance to save reproductive rights on a federal level. Largely decorative legislation is seemingly the only chance Democrats have to protect the rights of 50% of the population to medical freedom and privacy. We have arrived here because the Trump-installed justices are likely to officially overturn Roe on December 1. Technically, Roe has already been overturned by Texas Republicans, who in the dead of night passed a crazy restrictive bounty-laden dystopian bill prohibiting abortions after 6 weeks—the kind of law that was for years thought to be completely fringe but is now right within the mainstream of the Republican Party. Planned Parenthood recently described a Texas patient who was taking birth control and experienced spotting that she thought was her period. By the time she realized she was actually pregnant, it was too late. Many, many women do not know they are pregnant at the six-week mark.
The right to end a pregnancy, a right women have had for fifty years, since Roe was passed in 1973, has been taken away. The irony is that letting women control their own bodies is popular: According to CNN, “fewer than one third of Americans wanted to see Roe overturned.” But then, popular legislation has never been a focus of Trump’s Republican Party, which seems way more interested in taking rights away from women than giving voters what they want.Even the so called pro-choice Republicans can’t be counted on to course correct for their party, and actually stand up for women’s reproductive rights. “I support codifying Roe…” Senator Susan Collins said to the Los Angeles Times last week, before going on to explain why she would actually vote against codifying Roe.
I don’t want to criticize Democrats for trying to pass this legislation. The situation is dire. As the head of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson put it to me: “The right to make decisions about our bodies and our lives is hanging by a thread, and we need action from our leaders. The Women’s Health Protection Act would help protect abortion access and guard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions imposed by state politicians in Texas and across the country” We elected these leaders to at least try to protect our rights and interests, after all. But ultimately the Supreme Court is the last word on everything—every piece of legislation. So even if they could get the House bill through the Senate, the Supreme Court could just overturn it, as Rewire news’ senior law editor Imani Gandy told me. “Democrats’ efforts to codify Roe, while commendable, are dead in the water with this Supreme Court. There’s not a chance in hell that the group of 6 Federalist Society-captured conservative justices on the Supreme Court won’t find some reason that any statute cementing abortion rights is unconstitutional.”
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