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House Democrats, galvanized by Texas ban, vote to legalize abortion nationwide

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"No one will remember this bill after the Dobbs decision comes down when there will be more direct and traditional approaches in the law that reflect the will of the people," Dannenfelser said. "Even in a few months leading up to the Dobbs decision and after oral arguments, we'll be seeing what states actually want to do" if the court grants states the opportunity to set their own abortion laws.

As recently as 2009, despite a sizable Democratic majority in the House, the chamber did not have a majority of abortion rights supporters. There were 19 Democrats so adamant in their opposition to abortion that they signed a public letter saying any government health plan they supported would need to exclude abortion. Only one remains in Congress.

Since then, abortion has become starkly partisan, The political parties and outside political groups have grown more militant in excluding members who don't take the party's position on abortion.

The last House Republicans who supported abortion rights even occasionally, Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, left Congress in 2018. There are two Republicans in the Senate who have supported abortion rights, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Democrats have similarly closed ranks. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is thought to be the last Democrat in the House who opposes abortion.

Former Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., lost a hotly contested primary in 2020 and even lost the support of some of his fellow Democrats over his abortion position. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who represented a very Republican district, lost his election in 2020 as well. In the Senate, Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia identify as opposing abortion.

The Women's Health Protection Act would prohibit states from enacting prohibitions on abortion until fetal viability, which is typically 24 weeks. Abortion would be legal after that point if the patient's life or health were at stake. The bill's supporters say it would "codify" the Supreme Court's Roe decision legalizing abortion.

 

The bill would also preempt hundreds of state abortion restrictions that advocates say have unduly hindered access, such as requirements that physicians hold credentials at a local hospital or conduct abortions in surgical facilities.

Opponents of the bill say it would threaten existing protections for healthcare workers who oppose abortion and do not want to take part in performing them, as well as limits on government funding of abortion.

"The Women's Health Protection Act is designed to remove all legal protections for unborn children on both the federal and state levels," said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.

In the Senate, leadership has not yet determined whether the bill will come up for a vote. Democrats narrowly control the 50-50 chamber because of the tiebreaking vote of the vice president, but there are only 48 public supporters.

Two Democrats, Casey and Manchin, have not signed on to the bill. Collins said she opposes the bill because it goes too far but added she is discussing drafting an alternative to codify the Roe decision. Murkowski has not taken a public position.

©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.