WASHINGTON (BP) – An effort by congressional Democrats to enshrine an unprecedented abortion right in federal law failed Monday (Feb. 28).
The Senate refused to consider the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), voting 48-46 against invoking cloture. All the Republicans who were present – as well as a single Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – opposed the procedural move, which required 60 votes to cut off debate so a vote on the bill could occur. The House of Representatives had already approved the legislation, and President Biden had endorsed it.
The attempt by Democrats in Congress to expand abortion rights came as the Supreme Court considers a case that could result in the reversal of its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The WHPA would go beyond the Roe opinion, however, by prohibiting federal and state regulations of the procedure that are now permitted by the high court.
Southern Baptist public-policy specialist Chelsea Sobolik decried the bill and the Senate’s timing in acting on it.
“It is unconscionable that the U.S. Senate would bring the fallaciously named ‘Women’s Health Protection Act’ to the floor today, in the midst of the cruel, illegal invasion underway in Ukraine,” said Sobolik, director of public policy for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments.
“Senators should be focused on protecting life, not ending preborn lives by bringing one of the most extreme abortion bills in history to the Senate floor,” she said. “Divisive and partisan bills are not what America needs in this moment.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a Southern Baptist, also criticized a vote on the bill the day the Senate reconvened after a week out of session.
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“[M]y Democrat colleagues decided not to talk about Ukraine when we got back together, but instead they want to talk about expanding abortion in America,” Lankford said on the Senate floor before the vote. “How incredibly tone-deaf is that? The whole world is talking about Ukraine and the oppression they’re experiencing, and the United States Senate is talking about how do we get more abortions in America.”
Other pro-life advocates welcomed the failure of the proposal.
The bill “would have endangered women and unborn babies by prohibiting most – if not all – of the reasonable state regulations on abortion currently in place,” said Denise Burke, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written statement. “This legislation was just the latest example of the extreme lengths to which congressional Democrats will go to cater to abortionists.”
The WHPA would nullify, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), such state, pro-life regulations as:
- A waiting period for a woman before an abortion;
- Information for a woman considering abortion regarding her unborn child and alternatives to the procedure;
- A ban on sex-selection abortion;
- A prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks based on evidence the child feels pain by that point.