WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Thursday the House of Representatives will vote later this month on a bill that would protect the right to abortion across the country.
Her announcement comes after a divided Supreme Court late Wednesday denied an effort by abortion rights groups to halt a Texas law that took effect earlier in t that bans people from having the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.
The court declined to block enforcement of the law, the most restrictive in the nation, over the objection of three liberal associate justices and Chief Justice John Roberts.
The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur at six weeks. The law doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest but allows people to have the procedure for “medical emergencies.”
The House will vote on the bill when the House returns from its summer recess later this month, the speaker said.
“Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health is staggering.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act would guarantee a pregnant person’s right to access an abortion, along with providers being able to perform abortions. It would codify into law protections provided by the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the country in 1973. The bill would do this by establishing a statutory right to perform or receive the procedure, free from restrictions that single out abortion care.
Should the bill clear the House with its small Democratic majority, the bill’s future would be unclear in the 50-50 Senate. It would need 60 votes — 10 Republicans joining every Democratic voting Senator — to overcome a filibuster.
If allowed to remain in force, the Texas law would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since Roe v. Wade. Citing Roe, federal courts have shot down similar bans in other conservative states for years.
“Unlike the Supreme Court, we were elected. And we were elected on the promise we would protect the rights of women no matter where they live. This is how we do that!” Chu, the bill’s sponsor, wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said “SCOTUS failed to protect women by allowing Texas’ draconian abortion ban at six weeks – before most women even know they’re pregnant – to take effect. Access to safe abortion is a constitutional right and we will fight to defend it.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, said “Last night was a sign of relief for everyone who values the lives of the unborn. Texas now has the strongest protections in America for babies still in the womb, and I have never been more proud to call it home.”
Contributing: John Fritze