The House on Friday passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill aimed at preserving access to an abortion nationwide, as abortion rights are being threatened across the country by Republican-led state legislatures.
The House passed the measure on nearly a party-line vote, with Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas voting with Republicans against the measure. The vote was 218-211.
The bill now goes to the Senate where it is not expected to have the necessary votes to pass, because legislation in the chamber requires Republicans to join Democrats and get at least 60 votes to break the filibuster.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced the House would take up the legislation, which has 214 Democratic sponsors, following a controversial Texas law that bans abortions at six weeks went into effect because the Supreme Court formally denied a request from Texas abortion providers to freeze the state law.
On Friday ahead of the vote, Pelosi framed the Supreme Court’s decision as bringing “shame to the United States Supreme Court.”
The Texas law also allows private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the ban.
“Today’s vote has been a long time coming,” Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, the lead sponsor of the bill, said on Friday ahead of the vote, citing the long list of maneuvers that states made to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion. “It’s clear that we need one unified federal response to all of these attacks.”
Pelosi argued that with Democrats in control of the House, where the majority of members support abortion rights combined with President Joe Biden serving as a Democratic president, that the time has come to pass this legislation. Pelosi also called on her Senate colleagues to pass this bill, even though Democrats’ narrow hold on the majority makes passage a steep uphill battle.
“This is the first Congress that can make that claim,” Pelosi said of the pro-abortion rights nature of this Congress.
Despite being unable to pass any sort of legislation through Congress to counteract strict abortion laws across the country, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Thursday it will have its first hearing to examine the Texas six-week abortion ban.
Most House Republicans don’t support the legislation and are expected to vote against it.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, railed against House Democrats for even putting it to a vote on Friday during his weekly press conference.
“What the Democrats are bringing before us, it’s really a radical bill. It goes beyond Roe V. Wade. It allows abortion on demand up until birth. It shows how far left Democrats have become,” McCarthy said. “Regardless of how you feel about the situation, that is not the place I believe Americans are at. But they are going to spend their time pushing that onto the floor.”
The bill does not allow abortion on demand up until birth, but does allow abortion after fetal viability if the patient’s health is at risk. According to the legislative text, the bill bans “prohibition on abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
This story and headline has been updated with additional developments Friday.