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On Friday morning, Democrats in the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act,” an attempt by Democrats in Congress to codify Roe as more than constitutional precedent. Democrats have a tiny, unlikely window to try and save women’s reproductive freedom before December 1, when the Supreme Court, now dominated by conservative justices, hears Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Missisipi abortion ban case that challegs the right to abortion established by Roe. As the bill’s writer, Senator Richard Blumenthal put it to me: “The WHPA offers the clearest and best path forward to protecting Roe through congressional action. Any lawmaker who believes that access to abortion is a fundamental right should support this legislation.”
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.
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