On Monday, the Senate narrowly voted against a bill that would have legally enshrined the practice of abortion, as the Supreme Court prepares to make a decision that could finally overturn Roe v. Wade.
Fox News reports that the bill was defeated by a margin of 48-46, with six senators not present for the vote. However, the 47 Republicans who voted against the bill were joined by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the most moderate Democrat in the upper house, who has repeatedly voiced his opposition to some of his party’s more radical positions.
The bill, H.R. 3755, was called the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill ostensibly intended “to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.” The bill had passed in the House of Representatives by a similarly narrow margin of 218-211; in that vote as well, a sole Democrat, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), joined the Republicans in voting against the bill.
Abortion, the bill says, could be considered “reproductive justice,” and thus needs to be classified as a civil right that fights back against “systems of oppression, lack of bodily autonomy, white supremacy, and anti-black racism.” The language of the bill also bizarrely claims that men are capable of getting pregnant as well, claiming that it would “protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others—who are unjustly harmed by restrictions on abortion services.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) admitted that the bill was introduced purely in response to the Supreme Court’s agenda this year, which includes the case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case out of Mississippi could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that ultimately legalized abortion nationwide, and instead return the issue of abortion standards to the individual states to decide on their own.
“Sadly it looks like the Supreme Court will limit abortion rights on the coming months,” Schumer said in a statement ahead of the vote. “That’s why the bill is essential.”
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case last year, and is set to make its ruling this summer, along with all of the other cases on the agenda. The court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority, due in large part to the three justices nominated and confirmed by President Donald Trump, and is thus widely expected to either completely overturn or otherwise severely weaken the precedent set by Roe.