On Wednesday, Senate Democrats’ efforts to codify abortion rights failed 49-51.
Joe Biden blamed Republicans. “Once again – as fundamental rights are at risk at the Supreme Court – Senate Republicans have blocked passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that affirmatively protects access to reproductive health care,” he claimed. “This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people,” Biden said in a statement after the vote.
While the White House messaging on the failure of the Senate’s abortion legislation is focused on blaming Republicans, the fact is it was a Democrat who ultimately doomed the bill: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). Manchin made it quite clear before the vote he wouldn’t be supporting it.
“It’s just disappointing that we’re going to be voting on a piece of legislation which I would not vote for today,” Manchin told reporters. “But I would vote for Roe v. Wade codification if it was today.”
Manchin argued that the Women’s Health Protection Act wasn’t a Roe v. Wade codification but an expansion of abortion nationwide that went too far. “And with that, that’s not where we are today,” he said. “We should not be dividing this country further. We’re already divided.”
But division is what the radical left wants. If they’d be willing to make a few concessions on this issue, they’d probably find themselves in a much stronger position.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) both support Roe v. Wade and similarly felt that the legislation put forth by Schumer, which has already passed the House, went too far. While they’ve introduced compromise legislation, Schumer refuses to move on it. Democrats foolishly think that an all-or-nothing approach is the way to go when that means abortion up until birth, among other things.
Americans generally believe that abortion should be legal but rare and restricted to early pregnancy—and their views on this have been consistent on this.
If Democrats really want to codify Roe v. Wade and get bipartisan support, they would recognize that while Americans support abortion being legal, they also support reasonable restrictions on it. By pushing too far for abortion without any restrictions, they are overplaying their hand.
I don’t have any desire to help Democrats win on this, but I think it’s important to acknowledge a few compromises that they refuse to make on abortion that might have given them the upper hand.
The first thing is gestational limits. The Mississippi law that faced the challenge in Dobbs v. Jackson limited abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. Polling has shown this is a mainstream position. Support for abortion goes down with each trimester, and most abortions are performed during the first trimester, so supporting such a limit wouldn’t cut into Planned Parenthood’s profits significantly.
Another factor is parental consent and notification laws. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have nullified parental consent laws nationwide. While Democrats in Congress want to do away with them, Americans on both sides of the abortion debate agree that minors seeking abortions should need parental consent to do so. Remember how the issue of parental rights backfired on Democrats in Virginia?
Next, stop pushing for taxpayer-funded abortions. Once again, polling shows that Democrats are way on the fringe on this issue. Joe Biden was once a supporter of the Hyde Amendment, the legislative provision that banned federal tax dollars from funding abortions, but no more. If the American people aren’t comfortable with their tax dollars paying for abortions, Democrats ought to recognize that and stop pushing for it.
One key issue that kept Collins and Murkowski from supporting the Women’s Health Protection Act was how it eliminated “basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections to performing abortions.”
Manchin, Collins, and Murkowski likely would have supported legislation codifying Roe if the above compromises were made. But the radical left has gone too far off the deep end on abortion and will never make any concessions. This only helps the pro-life movement.