On Monday, four Senators — including two from both major parties — introduced a bill that would make key protections for abortion originally derived from Roe v. Wade into federal law.
The Supreme Court, of course, recently overturned Roe, largely leaving the task of regulating abortion to state officials — for now, at least. GOP officials in a slew of states quickly moved to implement or try to implement new restrictions on abortion. Although recent legal successes in states like Kentucky and North Dakota extended the timeframe in which abortions can be performed in those locales, in other states the anti-abortion machine is grinding forward with more success. Previously, federal protections for abortion relied on the Supreme Court’s interpretation in Roe of already established law rather than a specific component of federal law that explicitly established abortion rights. Senators behind the new measure to change that and bring back federal abortion protections include Dems Tim Kaine (Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) alongside Republicans Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
The new bill, if enacted, would also protect contraception access. In a concurring opinion in the case in which the court overturned Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Justices should revisit a key, past case in which the court provided protections for contraception. “After the Supreme Court gutted a woman’s right to make personal health care decisions, Congress must restore that right,” Kaine remarked. “That’s why I’ve worked with my colleagues to find common ground on this bipartisan compromise that would do just that. The Reproductive Freedom For All Act would restore the right to abortion and protect access to contraception by enshrining those freedoms into federal legislation.”
Murkowski added: “Every American should have autonomy over their own health care decisions, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has made it imperative for Congress to restore women’s reproductive rights. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to write into law the protections provided through Roe and Casey as well as affirming access to contraception provided in Griswold and other cases. For five decades, reproductive health care decisions were centered with the individual – we cannot go back in time in limiting personal freedoms for women.”
Although certain state officials basically leaped at the chance provided by the undoing of Roe to put new restrictions on abortion in place, figures in other states quickly began work to bolster local protections for reproductive healthcare. In California and New York, state constitutional amendments that would protect abortion are moving through the processes required for ratification. In Massachusetts, GOP Governor Charlie Baker recently signed new legislation into law protecting abortion access, gender-affirming healthcare, and the right of those in Massachusetts to access certain protected healthcare services without interference. On that last point, the measure blocks leadership in Massachusetts from cooperating with potential out-of-state proceedings targeting someone for receiving or providing key healthcare services in the state. There’s a worry leaders in states with reproductive healthcare restrictions could target any of their states’ residents that go elsewhere for the care in question.