J. Scott Applewhite / AP
The Women’s Health Protection Act, a democratically-led bill that would effectively codify the right to abortion, was not passed, as expected, after it didn’t hit the Senate’s 60-vote mark. All Democrats voted in favor of the legislation except Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and all Republicans opposed the bill.
In a rare case, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote, which was 49-51.
Minutes after the vote, President Joe Biden released a statement that “this failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack and goes against the will of the majority of the American people.”
“We will continue to defend the constitutional rights of women to make private reproductive choices as recognized in Roe vs Wade nearly half a century ago and my administration will continue to explore the measures and tools at our disposal to do just that, “Biden said, without giving details.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that the Senate would vote on the bill after a leaked draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito revealed that the court is likely to overturn the 50-year rights protections. of abortion granted under 1973 Roe vs Wade Pencil case.
Since it was never likely to pass, the vote was effectively symbolic. “I think it’s really important to have this vote to show where everyone is,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told NPR on Tuesday.
But comments from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell over the weekend that Republicans might try to legislate on a nationwide abortion ban also raised the stakes for Democrats.
The court’s draft opinion would not issue a national ban, but would allow states to do so.
Attention could now focus on the efforts of more moderate Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who are working out a narrower approach to WHPA legislation. That bill would also aim to codify Roe in some form, but it has restrictions that many Democrats don’t support.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said he was having “productive discussions” with Collins about that legislation, but acknowledged that even that bill, if it were passed, would not immediately have enough support to pass.
“I’ve worked on things with Lisa and Susan before and negotiated and often find an answer that we can live with,” said Kaine. “So I’m in that spirit. This is the spirit of discussions.”
And while the WHPA went down on Wednesday, Democrats managed to win the support of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who on Tuesday said he would vote in favor of the legislation.
Casey is one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in office. His father, Bob Casey Sr., was Governor of Pennsylvania during the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Caseywho supported Roe but paved the way for restrictions on abortion.
In a declaration, the young Casey said that circumstances surrounding the right to abortion in the country have changed in recent months. He cited the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion and the possibility that Republicans might try to codify a national ban on abortions.
“During my time in public office, I have never voted for – nor do I support – such a ban,” said Casey.