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Demand the U.S. Senate pass the Women’s Health Protection Act

Originally posted on Breaking the Chains magazine.

The Women’s Health Protection Act is being brought to a vote by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Feb. 28. This bill, if passed, would make abortion access prior to fetal viability the law of the land, and override existing state laws restricting abortion, predicated on women’s right to essential health-protecting medical care. Abortion rights activists are gearing up for action to pressure on the Senate to pass this important bill.

The WHPA was passed by the House of Representatives Sept. 24, 2021. The bill’s introduction and approval by the House came in the context of the implementation of Texas SB8, a state law that has severely restricted abortion. WHPA’s approval by Congress also occured in the context of  the clear indicators that there is now a solid arch-reactionary, anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court, which refused to stop the implementation of the Texas law—and which recently heard arguments in another key abortion case,. That decision will be announced in June of this year. 

Instead of passively awaiting a Supreme Court decision which may very well overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, activists have launched a campaign to put pressure on the Supreme Court while simultaneously agitating for the passage of WHPA. Schumer’s surprise announcement on Feb. 17 has kicked this latter component into high gear. Activists have accelerated efforts on a pro-WHPA petition campaignand are launching emergency phone zaps to the Senate to urge a “yes” vote. 

WHPA is expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate where it will need some Republican Senators’ support for the bill to pass, especially since the undemocratic filibuster procedural rule remains in place. Some prominent “moderate” Republican Senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have in the past sometimes bucked the anti-woman trend of the GOP, have indicated they are likely to vote “no” on the bill. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and the majority of the Senate appear poised to side with a well-funded, reactionary minority, rather than the vast majority of people in the U.S. who polling shows support access to abortion in most or all circumstances. 

What the WHPA would do

  • The bill would enshrine into law healthcare providers’ ability to offer abortion services “prior to fetal viability” without restrictions imposed by individual states, like requiring special admitting privileges for providers or imposing waiting periods.
  • The bill would protect abortion services and pre-empt many restrictions Republicans have passed at the state level, such as those requiring ultrasounds or other tests.
  • This bill would also challenge any “heartbeat” bills that restrict abortions before a fetus is medically viabile (i.e., Mississippi’s 15 weeks ban, Texas’s 6 weeks ban)

While WHPA is an important bill initiated by the Democrats, history has shown that the Democrats are willing to make concessions in the name of bipartisanship while harming large sectors of poor, working-class communities. Even now, when they have full control of the legislative and executive branches of government, the Democrats have been slow to move on passing progressive bills. 

Since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, right-wing politicians have constantly attacked abortion rights. The Democrats have used abortion and reproductive rights to bring out voters, but have done little to actually defend the right to access abortion in the years since 1973, being themselve the authors or supporters of countless restrictions, most notably the Hyde Amendment which prohibits federal funding for abortion procedures. Roe itself was not a gift from a benevolent Supreme Court; as with Roe; only a militant women’s movement in the streets can pressure the Senate to enact WHPA into law, expand universal abortion access and end the charade of attacking women and other child bearers once and for all. 

Get involved: Instructions, scripts and phone numbers for the pro-WHPA phone zap to Senators here! 

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