WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to approve a landmark piece of legislation that would give all Americans the federally-protected right to access abortion care, regardless of where they live.
The Women's Health Protection Act would -- for the first time -- establish a federal statutory right for all health care providers throughout the country to provide abortion services, and a federal statutory right for all Americans to receive such care, regardless of where they live.
It would codify the protections currently guaranteed to most Americans by the Supreme Court's decision in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade.
The legislation's passage comes on the heels of, and in direct response to the Supreme Court's decision earlier this month to let a controversial new law in Texas, which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, take effect -- effectively banning most abortion care in the state.
If signed into law, the Women's Health Protection Act would negate that controversial new Texas law -- as well as any other attempts by local or state governments to unnecessarily limit Americans' access to abortion care.
"For people in Texas, the fifty years of legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade is effectively meaningless," said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. "For people in Mississippi, the constitutional right to access abortion care may soon no longer exist. This legislation will ensure that all Americans -- regardless of where they live -- have a federally-protected right to access abortion care. It will negate the Texas and Mississippi laws, and it will guarantee all women in this country -- once again -- have the freedom to decide what's best for them."
"But maybe most importantly," DeGette said, "this legislation will end our reliance on the courts."
The Supreme Court's decision to deny an emergency request to block the new Texas abortion law before it took effect sparked outrage from pro-choice advocates across the country who saw it as a clear sign of where the court was heading when it comes to protecting Americans' constitutional right to abortion care.
After allowing the new Texas law to stand, the Supreme Court announced that on December 1 it will hear oral arguments in a Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, that's seen as a direct attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"Make no mistake," DeGette said, "this is all part of a broader, concerted effort to turn back the clock on Americans' reproductive rights in this country. And the need for Congress to act has never been more urgent."
Since 2011, anti-abortion lawmakers have passed nearly 500 restrictive laws through state legislatures aimed at making it harder -- and sometimes impossible -- for women in those states to access the abortion care they need.
The Women's Health Protection Act would negate those laws and preempt any future attempts by state and local governments to unnecessarily limit Americans' right to seek abortion care. And it would establish a federal statutory right for health care providers to provide abortion services, and a federal statutory right for patients to receive such care -- regardless of where they live.
At a press conference Friday morning ahead of the vote, Speaker Pelosi hailed DeGette's leadership on the issue and her efforts to get the landmark legislation to the floor.
"That morning, when we heard the decision, Diana DeGette had the collective wisdom of the co-chairs of this caucus and she gave me chapter and verse," Pelosi said. "Diana DeGette has fought this issue in the courts and won. She's fought it in the Congress. She's fighting it in the court of public opinion."
After the press conference, DeGette took to the House floor to challenge her colleagues on the other side of the aisle who were opposed to the legislation to change their thinking on the issue.
"Let me suggest a different paradigm that protects the full range of women's health care freedom in this country," DeGette said. "I'll decide what happens to my body and you decide what happens to yours. I'll decide what's best for my health and my body, and you decide what's best for yours."
The Women's Health Protection Act was approved in the House by a vote of 218 - 211. It now heads to the Senate where a companion bill (S. 1975) introduced in June by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has 47 cosponsors.