Democrats have failed to push forward legislation to safeguard abortion rights nationwide in the US, as Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate blocked an effort to enshrine the landmark Roe v Wade precedent in federal law after a leaked Supreme Court opinion suggested it was about to be overturned.
With 51 senators opposed and 49 senators in support, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes they would have needed to take up sweeping legislation to guarantee abortion access and explicitly bar a wide array of restrictions.
The outcome was never in doubt, given the 50-50 split in the Senate and the deep partisan differences over abortion rights. But Democrats pressed ahead anyway, hoping that the vote would help them portray Republicans as extremists and persuade voters that they needed to elect more Democrats in November if they hoped to preserve abortion and other rights.
Republicans, who unanimously opposed the measure, were joined by one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who broke with his party to vote against taking up the Bill. Mr Manchin, who opposes abortion rights, said the legislation was overly broad, noting that it would go substantially further than simply codifying Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that in 1973 legalised abortion, and warning that it would “expand abortion”.
The action pushed the issue out of the realm of policy-making in Washington, where congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden now lack a viable legislative path forward to preserve Roe v Wade, and to the forefront of the political debate with midterm congressional elections only months away.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would have protected abortion access nationwide, going far beyond simply codifying Roe v Wade. It would explicitly prohibit a long list of abortion restrictions, including some that have been enacted by states since Roe v Wade was decided and that have severely limited access to the procedure.
Even as they work to avoid a backlash against their party before the midterms, Republicans did not shy away from the abortion debate today, seeking to cast the bill as radical and describing Democrats’ goal as legalising abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy, with no limits.
“Today, Democrats have decided to line up behind an extreme and radical abortion policy,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said. – This article originally appeared in the New York Times