House Passes Legislation to Protect Abortion Rights amid Legal Challenges to Texas Ban

·4-min read
nancy pelosi
nancy pelosi

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images Nancy Pelosi

The House passed legislation on Friday that would protect abortion rights.

In a vote 218 to 211, all but one Democrat voted in favor of H.R. 3755, the Women's Health Protection Act, that effectively codifies the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that granted women's right to abortion. Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar voted against to the legislation along with all Republicans.

The Women's Health Protection Act specifies that the legislation would grant access to abortion to "every person capable of becoming pregnant."

Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.
Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.

Sergio Flores For The Washington Post via Getty Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Austin, Texas.

RELATED: Justice Department Exploring 'All Options' to Challenge Texas Abortion Law

"This Act is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others—who are unjustly harmed by restrictions on abortion services," the legislation states.

The legislation still has to be voted on by the Senate.

During Friday's House debate, several Democratic and Republican senators shared their personal stories about abortion and women's health care, the Washington Post reported.

The outlet noted that during a news conference on Thursday, Democratic leaders said they have been seeking an opportunity to codify Roe v. Wade, but did not previously have the supportive numbers to move forward.

"And now we do," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, according to the Post. "Every woman everywhere has a constitutional right to basic reproductive health. Yet for years, that has been questioned by some."

She also called Texas' law that went into effect on Sept. 1 "un-American," the outlet reported.

RELATED: Florida Lawmaker Introduces 'Extreme' Abortion Bill Nearly Identical to Texas' Controversial Law

Texas' Senate Bill 8 which essentially eliminates the rights of Roe v. Wade, passed through the Texas legislature in May and took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to act on an emergency request to stop the ban.

The law "would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close," abortion providers said in the emergency request to the Supreme Court.

The highly restrictive bill prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most people know they're pregnant. Often called a "heartbeat ban," the law is based on when the fetal heartbeat can first be detected, the earliest being six weeks into pregnancy.

Senate Bill 8 does not allow exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of incest or rape.

Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.
Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.

Sergio Flores For The Washington Post via Getty Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Austin, Texas.

RELATED: Texas Abortion Rights Advocate Warns Restrictive Laws Will 'Impact the Entire Nation'

Under the law, private citizens can also sue abortion providers whom they suspect illegally performed an abortion after six weeks or anyone who aided in an abortion, including driving someone to a clinic or helping them with the cost. If the lawsuit is successful, they will be awarded a minimum of $10,000.

Anti-abortion groups have been vocal about enacting these near-bans to set up a legal battle in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court is expected to take up during its next term, which begins in October.

Following the enactment of the bill in Texas, President Joe Biden said in a statement that he is "directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas' bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties."

Soon after, the Department of Justice announced they would sue Texas over the new law.

RELATED: GoDaddy, Lyft, and Uber Defend Women's Right to Healthcare Over Texas' New Restrictive Abortion Law

"The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference announcing the suit.

"It is settled constitutional law that 'a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,'" the lawsuit reads. "But Texas has done just that."

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