© 2024 New Hampshire Public Radio

Persons with disabilities who need assistance accessing NHPR's FCC public files, please contact us at publicfile@nhpr.org.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Purchase your tickets for a chance to win $35k toward a new car or $25k in cash during NHPR's Summer Raffle!

The House Passes A Bill Meant To Counter Texas-Style Abortion Bans

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill to protect abortion rights on Sept. 24, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill to protect abortion rights on Sept. 24, 2021.

Updated September 24, 2021 at 11:58 AM ET

The U.S. House on Friday approved a bill that Democrats say will protect a person's access to abortion.

Passage of the Women's Health Protection Act is a response to a Texas law that essentially bans abortion after six weeks, before most people realize they are pregnant. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law from taking effect, although the decision leaves the door open for future challenges.

The bill passed the House mainly along party lines, 218-211, with one Democrat voting with Republicans. The vote was largely symbolic as the bill is unlikely to advance in the Senate, where 10 Republicans and all Democrats would need to back the bill in order to meet the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster.

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal, has 47 co-sponsors, although it's unlikely to garner the support of Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who has previously voted for abortion restrictions, and West Virginia moderate Joe Manchin.

The Women's Health Protection Act would protect a person's ability to decide to continue or end a pregnancy and would enshrine into law health care 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.

It also would prohibit restrictions on abortion after fetal viability "when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health."

Republicans argued that the bill goes too far, essentially limiting a state's ability to regulate or restrict abortions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to bring the bill to the floor after Texas enacted its bill earlier this month. In a statement, Pelosi said the Texas statute is "the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade."

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., first introduced the Women's Health Protection Act in 2013, when Republicans were in control of the House.

"Now is the chance," she told MSNBCearlier this month, noting that Democrats have the votes in the House and President Biden's support.

"We have had Roe v. Wade in effect for 50 years. We have been protected by that," she described. "It wasn't until 2011, [when] we saw states pass these medically unnecessary laws — which dictated the width of clinic doors and forced doctors to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges or where they required an ultrasound — that we saw that we just have to get the Women's Health Protection Act in place, so that ... we weren't playing whack-a-mole with each of these states and their laws."

The courts may still play a role. The Department of Justice is suing Texas, saying the state enacted its law "in open defiance of the Constitution."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
Related Content

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.