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Democrats fails on right to abortion, next steps unclear

Newsman: The first legislative attempt to enshrine a national right to abortion failed since the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark decision. 

The United States Senate failed Wednesday to pass a bill that would have made Roe v. Wade the law of the land. Democrats were unable to overcome a filibuster on the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022. The final tally was 49 to 51 with moderate Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joining with Republicans to vote against the measure and stop it from advancing. The effort failed; meaning the measure would have failed even if it had mustered the 60 votes needed to send the measure to the floor for an up-or-down vote.

Democrats’ next steps remain unclear. Schumer said Tuesday, “We’re going to keep fighting, and we will be pursuing the best path forward.”

“Protecting the right to choose at this critical moment is one of the most consequential votes we could possibly take,” Schumer said before the vote. “The public will not forget which side of the vote senators fall on today. They will not forget who voted to protect their freedoms. And they will not forget those responsible for the greatest backslide in individual liberties in half a century.”

“It is not Roe v. Wade codification, it is an expansion,” Manchin said before the vote. “We should not be dividing this country further than we’re already divided.”

The bill was not expected to pass, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., framed the vote as a way to put every member of the Senate on the record about their stance on abortion in the wake of the leaked decision. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told USA TODAY last week that should the leaked Supreme Court opinion hold, “legislative bodies – not only at the state level but at the federal level – certainly could legislate in that area.”

The Republican leader said a national abortion bill is “possible,” but he would maintain the filibuster if Republicans win back control of the Senate. McConnell said Tuesday that within the Republican caucus, the majority sentiment is that abortion should be left to the states. 

The vote allows Democrats in the Senate to draw a distinct comparison between themselves and Senate Republicans, most of whom are anti-abortion. 

“Republicans in Congress – not one of whom voted for this bill – have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives,” President Joe Biden said in a statement following the vote. 

The bill, authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would have made abortion legal nationally, superseding legislation passed by states to severely restrict or ban the procedure. It would have prevented states from passing laws enacting pre-viability abortion bans and stop medically unnecessary restrictions to the procedure, such as waiting periods or counseling requirements.

Though Democrats lacked the 60 votes necessary to overcome the filibuster, they hoped that the leaked decision would increase the urgency of the vote and put pressure on senators to back the measure. Some hoped that their Republican colleagues who support abortion rights, namely Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, could be convinced to back the bill. 

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