The U.S. Capitol building. (Photo by Matt H. Wade via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will force a vote next week on a bill to codify abortion protections, following the disclosure that the Supreme Court could be ready to overturn a landmark abortion rights ruling, he and other Senate Democrats announced Thursday.
The effort appears largely symbolic. Democrats are well short of the 60 votes needed to pass the bill and even lack the 50 votes needed to change Senate rules to lower that threshold.
Still, Schumer, of New York, and other Democrats said they want to put every member of the chamber on the record, following the leak to Politico earlier this week of a Supreme Court draft opinion showing justices at least initially voted to overturn the abortion rights case Roe v. Wade. The ruling is not final and could yet be changed.
“We’re having the vote next week,” Schumer said. “We’re going to see where everyone stands … Once we have that vote, we will figure out the best way to go from there.”
Schumer plans to set up a vote for May 11, he said.
The Senate rejected a similar bill in February. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III joined all Republicans present to defeat a procedural vote, 46-48. A spokeswoman for Manchin did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, a handful of Senate Democrats blasted their Republican colleagues for focusing more on the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft of an opinion overturning Roe than the consequences of the opinion.
“Fundamentally, Republicans don’t give a rip about women,” Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said the vote would make Republicans to take a stance on the issue itself instead of the leak.
Republicans have for years articulated opposition to abortion rights and to the Roe decision in particular. Public opinion is firmly in favor of keeping Roe in place, with supporters of the ruling outnumbering its opponents more than 2-to-1 in a recent CNN poll.
“Next week, they’re not going to get away with just saying, ‘Let’s look over there,’” Stabenow said. “They’re going to have to vote.”
Schumer pledged the vote would be only the start of action on the issue.
“We’re starting off here, but you will hear plenty from us,” he said. “This is not just one vote and then this issue goes away.”
Overturning Roe would leave states to determine their own abortion policies. Many would ban the practice, either through recently enacted laws, those designed to take effect after Roe is overturned or decades-old laws that were never repealed while federal protections were in place.
In Wisconsin, for example, an 1849 law banning abortion is still on the books and would go back into effect if Roe is overturned, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin said Thursday.
“As I was listening to Tammy talk about Wisconsin, I thought, we always said they’d take us back to the ‘50s,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said. “They’re taking us back to the 1850s.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington added that states with restrictive abortion regimes would suffer a “brain drain,” as qualified candidates for hiring would seek work in states with more liberal reproductive rights laws.
The issue could be a problem for the private sector, as well as some federal agencies. For example, NASA has a strong presence in states like Florida and Texas that are considering or have enacted abortion restrictions, she said.
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