Skip to content

House passes abortion rights legislation

No Republicans voted for legislation to broaden abortion rights

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts a news conference on the abortion rights bill outside of the Capitol on Friday. Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., and Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, right, also appear.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts a news conference on the abortion rights bill outside of the Capitol on Friday. Reps. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., and Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, right, also appear. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed legislation, 218-211, on Friday that, if enacted, would broadly expand the scope of abortion rights.

No Republicans voted for it. Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Texas, was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.

The legislation by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., would protect abortion access and the ability for health providers to perform them.

The bill would prohibit some state-level restrictions such as bans on mandatory waiting periods and limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can be performed.

It also would not permit limits on a health care providers’ ability to administer abortion services, such as the abortion pill mifepristone, by telemedicine, other than limits all telehealth providers follow.

A GOP motion to send the bill back to committee was rejected, 210-219.

The vote on the House bill comes at a busy time for abortion policy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard oral arguments Friday morning in SisterSong v. Kemp, in a lawsuit that will determine if a 2019 Georgia law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy can take effect.

The Supreme Court also announced Monday that it will hear oral arguments on Dec. 1 in a highly anticipated case involving a Mississippi abortion law that will determine if states can implement restrictions before the point of viability.

State-level abortion action has inspired a slew of attempts to limit or expand abortion access on the national level.

When Georgia initially passed its law, a number of key businesses threatened to boycott the state. That and similar laws sparked a fierce debate in Congress, including in a 2019 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on state abortion laws.

Most recently, the implementation of a Texas law that bans almost all abortions with no exceptions for rape and incest has also ignited the debate over abortion policy. Abortion rights advocates submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on Thursday asking to expedite the case and override the appeals process.

The Justice Department has challenged the Texas law, and arguments before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas are scheduled for Oct. 1.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee are both holding hearings next week in response to the Texas law. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has cited the law as the impetus behind the Friday vote.

House debate

Democrats say the legislation is necessary in the wake of laws like those in Texas and Mississippi.

Chu, speaking on the House floor Friday, said the bill would “respect the right and freedom to make our own choices about our bodies and leave that decision up to us and our doctors.”

The Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus held a press conference in favor of the bill Friday morning that included remarks from Pelosi and other caucus members.

“If we don’t act fast, women’s ability to access abortion care across the country could become a thing of the past,” co-chair Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said at the event. “The urgency was never as great as it is now with the Texas law and the Mississippi law and the cascade of laws, and that’s why we are bringing it up now.”

Republicans criticized the bill on the House floor, saying it would go against many people’s deeply held convictions and also invalidate necessary state laws.

“It does nothing to protect women’s health,” said Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., who expressed worries that the bill would override state parental consent laws for minors and clinic restrictions.

House Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said advancements in science since 1973 — when the Supreme Court said in its Roe v. Wade decision that women have a right to abortion — make abortion “inhumane.”

“It is my hope that we will learn from this and reject abortion,” she said.

Federal abortion legislation is increasingly difficult to enact as the two parties have become more polarized on the issue in Congress. No House Republicans voted for the bill, and it is unlikely to survive a Senate filibuster.

Two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, oppose the bill. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of two Republicans in the Senate who often votes in favor of abortion rights, is also opposed to the bill.

Advocates also fear that the Senate will be the roadblock to removing the Hyde amendment, an annual appropriations rider that prevents federal funding of abortion in most cases. The House-passed fiscal 2022 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill did not include Hyde language.

Votes on abortion legislation on both sides of the debate are used to energize each party’s base voters.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told reporters on Friday before the vote that the “radical bill” would “greatly advantage candidates in 2022 in the midterms in the House and the Senate” that oppose abortions.

Of the 34 seats up in the Senate next year, 14 are currently held by Democrats and 20 are held by Republicans.

Recent Stories

Convention puts Wisconsin in spotlight, but it’s used to that

Amid tense election, Secret Service working with already boosted budget

Biden condemns attempted Trump assassination, calls for ‘unity’

Trump rushed from stage after gunshots fired at rally

These Democrats have called on Biden to quit the race

Gaffe track — Congressional Hits and Misses