Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to protect the right to abortion across the country, passing the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755) in a 218-211 vote. The bill protects against abortion bans like the one in Texas (S.B. 8), as well as the Mississippi ban that the Supreme Court will hear later this year. This vote marks the first time the House has ever passed legislation specifically designed to protect the right to abortion access nationwide.
The bill, also known as WHPA, is a response to the hundreds of state laws passed in recent years designed to block access to abortion care. WHPA creates a new legal protection for abortion providers to provide abortion care, and for their patients to receive care, free from medically unnecessary restrictions and bans on abortion, including forced waiting periods, biased counseling, and pre-viability bans like the one in Texas, which has ended almost all abortion care in the state.
“The House has stepped in where the courts have failed us,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This historic vote is the first time legislation has advanced in Congress to establish a right to abortion. Now the Senate must act or the current crisis on abortion access in Texas could reverberate across large swaths of the nation.”
Attacks on abortion access in the U.S. have reached an unprecedented level, with anti-abortion lawmakers enacting more restrictions in 2021 than in any year since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided.
Earlier this month, Texas implemented the country’s most restrictive abortion ban, ending almost all abortion care in the state. The law bans abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant, and incentivizes individuals to sue providers and anyone who helps someone obtain abortion care after the law’s limit.
“At a time when states like Texas have heightened attacks on reproductive justice, it is imperative that the federal government steps in to defend abortion care across our nation. The Women’s Health Protection Act is a crucial step toward making abortion access a reality,” URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity Executive Director Kimberly Inez McGuire said in a statement. “For too long, abortion bans of all kinds have kept essential care out of reach, especially for young, low-income, and BIPOC folks. Young people in the South and Midwest are demanding solidarity and action to defend abortion and uplift our communities. Along with ending abortion coverage bans and ensuring access for young people who need abortion, passing WHPA gets us closer to a day when our decisions are truly our own.”
A poll conducted earlier this year by Hart Research Associates showed that a majority of voters (61%) believe abortion rights across the country should be protected with a new federal law like WHPA. Support is especially strong among Black voters (79%) and other voters of color.
Restrictive abortion laws, designed to push care out of reach, disproportionately harm people who already face discriminatory barriers to health care, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, those working to make ends meet, women, people living in rural communities, young people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQI+ community.
The Women’s Health Protection Act was introduced in the House on June 8 by the U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The bill currently has 47 co-sponsors in the Senate.
The bill is supported by a broad coalition of more than 100 organizations committed to reproductive health, rights, and justice, including the Center for Reproductive Rights.
You can find the text of the Women’s Health Protection Act and a list of co-sponsors HERE.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global human rights organization of lawyers and advocates who ensure reproductive rights are protected in law as fundamental human rights for the dignity, equality, health, and well-being of every person. www.reproductiverights.org