An effort by Senate Democrats to legalize abortions in the U.S. up to the moment of birth with no restrictions failed to advance Monday (Feb. 28).
The Women’s Health Protection Act would expand abortion rights nationwide by prohibiting federal and state regulations of the procedure. It would overturn state-enacted laws such as bans on abortions performed for sex-selection or due to prenatal diagnoses like Down syndrome. The bill also would eliminate parental consent and informed consent laws, including those that require women to view an ultrasound prior to abortion.
The push for the bill comes as the Supreme Court considers a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks gestation.
A ruling in favor of the Mississippi law would essentially overturn the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions that legalized abortion in the U.S. and return power to regulate abortion policy to the states.
The WHPA had passed the House of Representatives and gained endorsement by President Joe Biden. But senators blocked the measure, voting 48-46 against cloture, a procedural move that would have ended debate so that a vote for the measure could be taken. In the Senate, a three-fifths majority — or 60 votes — is required to invoke cloture.
Pro-life advocates speak out
Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma and a Southern Baptist, criticized the effort on the Senate floor before the vote.
“[M]y Democrat colleagues decided not to talk about Ukraine when we got back together, but instead they want to talk about expanding abortion in America,” Lankford said. “How incredibly tone-deaf is that? The whole world is talking about Ukraine and the oppression they’re experiencing, and the United States Senate is talking about how do we get more abortions in America.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, another pro-life advocate in the Senate, said in a statement following the vote: “Tonight, the hard-left formally kicked the old slogan of ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to the curb and embraced extreme pro-abortion politics. … This pro-abortion extremism is completely out-of-touch with mainstream America.”
Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the legislative effort “unconscionable,” especially in light of the invasion of Ukraine.
“Senators should be focused on protecting life, not ending preborn lives by bringing one of the most extreme abortion bills in history to the Senate floor,” she said. “Divisive and partisan bills are not what America needs in this moment.”
The ERLC has posted an array of resources on its website explaining the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and its potential effect. The resources, which can be accessed here, include a prayer guide.