The U.S. Senate will vote next week on a bill to codify the right to an abortion into law, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Thursday.
"Today, I'm announcing that next week the U.S. Senate is going to vote on legislation to codify a woman's right to seek an abortion into federal law," Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. The vote, he said, would be set for Wednesday.
The move comes in the aftermath of the leaked draft opinion that shows the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to an abortion. The draft opinion was first published by POLITICO.
While the bill has virtually no chance of passing the 50-50 Senate, it will force Republican lawmakers to make a difficult vote ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats and abortion rights advocates are hoping to make the issue a central focus of the midterm elections in a year that appeared to be perilous for the party, while Republicans are largely trying to steer clear of wading into abortion politics.
"The American people will see crystal clear that when given the chance to right this wrong, the Republican party will either side with the extremists who want to ban abortion, or side with women with families, and with the vast majority of Americans," Schumer said.
"Republicans will have two choices: they can own the destruction of women’s rights, or they can reverse course and work to prevent the damage," he said.
The New York Democrat called it one of the the "most important" votes the body will take this year because "it deals with one of the most personal and difficult decisions a woman ever has to make in her life."
"This is not an abstract exercise," Schumer warned. "My fellow Americans, it's as real and as urgent as it gets."
The Women’s Health Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives in September of last year, would need 60 votes in order to advance in the Senate – an unlikely proposition in an evenly divided chamber.
The bill would guarantee the right of a patient to access an abortion, as well as protect the right of a health care provider to administer abortion services.
A procedural vote on the measure failed earlier this year in a 46-48 vote, with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat opposed to abortion rights, joining every Republican Senator present in voting against the measure. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the bill's lead sponsor in the Senate, has modified the legislation to appease some moderates, but it's unclear if those changes are enough to sway Manchin's opinion, or that of Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, two Republican lawmakers who support abortion rights.
Collins, who expressed disappointment with the leaked draft opinion, told reporters on Thursday that she will not support the Democrats' bill, arguing it's too broad and "doesn’t protect the right of a Catholic hospitals to not perform abortions," which she argued "has been enshrined in law for a long time."
“There is nothing in this measure that detracts in any way from existing protections based on conscience or religion," Blumenthal argued in response to Collins' comments. "It doesn't mandate that a hospital or a doctor or any other provider do anything that is against religious principles."
Collins and Murkowski have authored a competing abortion rights bill, the Reproductive Choice Act, which is more narrow than the Women's Health Protection Act, but would codify Roe and the "undue burden" protections from 1992's Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Even if either bill were to garner the support of Sens. Manchin, Collins and Murkowski, it's unclear if lawmakers could garner enough votes to overcome the Senate's 60-vote legislative threshold.
Manchin and fellow moderate Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a staunch supporter of abortion rights, both said this week they would not vote to weaken or do away with the filibuster, limiting the majority's options.
"The filibuster is a protection of democracy," Manchin said.
"A woman’s health care choices should be between her, her family, and her doctor. Overturning Roe v. Wade endangers the health and wellbeing of women in Arizona and across America," Sinema said in a statement, adding: "Protections in the Senate safeguarding against the erosion of women’s access to health care have been used half-a-dozen times in the past ten years, and are more important now than ever."