Senate Republicans block bill expressing support for abortion rights

Legislation expressing support for the right to an abortion was blocked by Senate Republicans on Wednesday, amid a push by Democrats to put the GOP on defense over reproductive rights ahead of the November elections.

The bill needed 60 votes in order to move forward to debate, meaning nine Republicans would have needed to break ranks and vote with Democrats. The final vote was 49-44, with only two Republicans defecting: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). 

The legislation was a “sense of Congress” bill that called for supporting access to abortion, as well as restoring and building upon the protections enshrined in Roe v. Wade. It was sponsored by all the Democratic women in the Senate, as well as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

“This is a plain, up-or-down vote on whether you support women being able to make their own reproductive health care decisions. It doesn’t force anything, it doesn’t cost anything, it’s actually just a half-page bill simply saying women should have the basic freedom to make their own decisions about their health care,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on the Senate floor.   

“If Republicans are going to force women to stay pregnant, we are going to force them to be honest with the American people about their extreme position,” she added.  

Democrats want to distinguish themselves from Republicans and put them on the record opposing those efforts, especially as the GOP struggles with how to message its stance on reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.   

In a statement of administration policy, the White House said it strongly supports the bill.

“Abortion, contraception, and fertility services are under attack as Republicans in Congress refuse to protect nationwide access to this vital reproductive health care,” the statement said. “The President and Vice President stand with the vast majority of Americans who agree that reproductive health care decisions should be made by a woman with her doctor—not by politicians.”

The vote was the third the Senate has taken since June on protecting women’s access to reproductive health care, following votes on the Right to Contraception Act and the Right to IVF Act. Republicans blocked both measures. 

But Republicans dismissed Wednesday’s action as an election year show vote and a distraction, as Democrats deal with mounting concerns over President Biden’s fitness as a candidate and whether he should remain at the top of the party’s ticket in November.

Republicans say they support Americans’ access to contraception and in vitro fertilization, and have accused Democrats of fearmongering over nonexistent threats. 

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