After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks gestation to remain in effect, Democrats are seeking to codify abortion rights into federal law while leaders of other states are looking to follow Texas’ lead.
Senate Bill 8 went into effect in Texas Wednesday and bans abortions after a baby's heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks gestation. The law also allows private citizens to file lawsuits against abortionists or anyone who aids in an illegal abortion.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the state and local level are vowing to take action after the Supreme Court declined to block the law from taking effect. The court did not weigh in on the law's constitutionality, and litigation in the lower courts is likely to continue.
Planned Parenthood of South Texas announced Friday that its affiliates "filed a request in the District Court for Travis County for a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life, its legislative director John Seago, and anyone acting in concert with them from suing abortion providers and health care workers at Planned Parenthood in their efforts to 'enforce' SB 8."
In a statement Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slammed SB 8 as being “the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century,” adding, “this ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.”
Pelosi announced that upon returning from recess, “the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act, originally introduced in the 116th Congress, is designed to limit the ability of states to impose abortion restrictions and codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws and made abortion legal nationwide.
Democrats' push to codify Roe comes as Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses have grown increasingly concerned that the Supreme Court will overturn that ruling.
If enacted, the Women’s Health Protection Act would prevent states from instituting health and safety standards such as ensuring that women seeking an abortion are seen in-person by an abortion doctor. The Act would increase the use of DIY abortions and so-called “abortion services via telemedicine.” It would also prohibit states from banning abortions before and after "fetal viability," thus allowing late-term abortion. ”
“Congressional action is necessary to put an end to harmful restrictions, to federally protect access to abortion services for everyone regardless of where they live, and to protect the ability of health care providers to provide these services in a safe and accessible manner,” the bill reads.
“Abortion services are essential to health care and access to those services is central to people’s ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the United States," it adds.
The Women’s Health Protection Act has secured the support of 193 of the 220 Democrats in the House. It's expected to pass the lower chamber, given the Democrats’ narrow majority, but faces an uphill climb to pass in the Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes to pass. Democrats have a 50-50 majority in the upper chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
While congressional Democrats seek to codify abortion rights into federal law, lawmakers in other states are looking to pass laws similar to SB 8. Wilton Simpson, the president of the Republican-led Florida state Senate, told the Tampa-based WFLA that “there is no question” the Florida legislature will consider passing a law similar to SB 8. “It’s something we’re already working on,” he told the news outlet.
In a statement to Spectrum News, Simpson elaborated on his support for a pro-life bill: “The Texas law represents a new approach and the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t block it from taking effect is encouraging. As an adoptive child myself, it’s important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption and prevent abortion; therefore, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida.”
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely seen as a 2024 presidential hopeful, did not definitively say whether he would sign such a bill into law should it reach his desk: “What they did in Texas was interesting and I haven’t really been able to look enough about it. They’ve basically done this through private right of action.”
“I’m going to look more significantly at it,” he added. “I’ve always been somebody that … really does support protections for life as best as we can do it.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, also a Republican, took to Twitter Thursday to indicate that she wants to see similar legislation passed in her state: “Following the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the pro-life TX law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro life laws on the books in SD.”
The enactment of SB 8 and the resulting debate comes as the Supreme Court is slated to rule on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The court is expected to hear arguments in its upcoming term and a decision is expected next spring. A ruling in favor of the state of Mississippi, which is asking the justices to uphold the ban, would weaken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org