It didn’t take long for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to make good on her word. After the Supreme Court refused to shoot down the new law greatly restricting abortions in Texas, Rep. Pelosi promised to bring legislation to the floor to guarantee a right to abort nationwide. Now, just a few weeks later, that bill has cleared the House and is heading to the Senate, where it will almost certainly die.
In the Lone Star State, Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches, and it likely didn’t surprise many when Governor Gregg Abbott signed the new law restricting abortions. The shock came when SCOTUS didn’t uphold an injunction that would have, at least for time, rendered it unenforceable. President Joe Biden has also promised to do everything in his power to make sure women in Texas are allowed to terminate their pregnancies, but there’s very little he can do, if anything at all, constitutionally speaking – and even then, his administration would have to get real creative.
Speaker Pelosi’s promise carried a bit more weight, however. Once a state has enacted a law, only three things can render it ineffective:
- A repeal by the state itself.
- A Court decision ruling the law unconstitutional.
- A new federal law that overrules the one at the state level.
Texas isn’t going to repeal its brand-new abortion ban, and the highest court in the land already refused to kill it, so that only left one option.
Friday, September 24, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act 218-211. For those who keep up with the partisan makeup of Congress, the number of Democrats may seem a bit low, though still six more than needed to squeak by on a simple majority “aye.” Democrat Henry Cueller of Texas voted against the bill, while Florida’s Al Lawson didn’t vote at all. Every other Democrat in the House supported the legislation and all but two Republicans opposed. Reps. Debbie Lesko of Arizona and Wyoming’s Liz Cheney didn’t vote at all.
With the battle for re-election just around the corner in 2022, the refusal to explicitly toe the party line could have disastrous repercussions. While this is true even for Lesko and Lawson, it is especially so for Cueller, a Democrat who dared actively oppose a partisan push, and Cheney, who must already contend with an incredibly unpopular – amongst Republican voters, anyway – history of anti-Trump sentiment.
Now the act must make its way to the Senate, and it is likely to go no further. Ten Republicans would have to cross the aisle on this one, and even if two or three who have shown some support for abortion in the past sign on, Democrats simply won’t have the majority required to overcome any filibuster. Even without the filibuster, there are pro-life Democrats to contend with. Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin are all claimed by the DFLA – that’s Democrats For Life of America, emphasis on the “For Life” part. It’s unlikely that any of these thus far successful pro-life Democrats will change their tune now.
Read more from James Fite.