Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pointed that out. “There is nothing in this measure that detracts in any way from existing protections based on conscience or religion. It doesn’t mandate that a hospital or a doctor or any other provider do anything that is against religious principles,” he clarified. Just like under existing law: no hospital, no clinic, and no provider would be compelled to do abortions.
Co-founder of Sister District, Gaby Goldstein, joins The Downballot to discuss what Democrats in the states are doing to protect abortion rights
If Democrats said, “Okay, Susan Collins, we will put in a very specific conscience clause just for you, will you help us break the filibuster and uphold abortion rights like you’ve always said you are committed to doing?” she wouldn’t. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t let her, because he’s in charge of her conscience. McConnell only allows her to act on her principles when it doesn’t matter.
There’s a compelling religious freedom argument to be made for abortion rights, and 132 faith-based, religious, and civil rights groups have made it. “We affirm our nation’s founding principle of religious liberty, which is integrally bound to reproductive freedom,” the groups wrote in an open letter to the U.S. Senate. “Religious liberty includes the right to follow one’s own faith or moral code in making critical, personal reproductive health decisions, without political interference.”
“While we respect the right of every individual, including our lawmakers, to hold their own personal and religious beliefs, our country’s Constitution demands that no one impose a single religious viewpoint on all through civil law or regulation,” they continued. “The Women’s Health Protection Act is essential legislation that embodies these shared ideals.”
Collins must not have gotten her copy of the letter.
The WHPA is not going to overcome a filibuster, with or without Collins, because Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have already said they won’t do it. Nevertheless, the vote needs to be taken and Republicans—and Manchin and Sinema—have to be held to account with that. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was particularly sharp on that point in his floor statement Thursday.
“Senate Republicans spent years packing our courts with right-wing judges. Will they now own up to the harm they’ve caused or will they try to undo the damage?” Schumer said Thursday. “Republicans spent years under Leader McConnell pushing right-wing judges to lifetime appointments to the bench. They stole the nomination of Merrick Garland, changed the rules of the Senate, and rammed through three hard-right, hard ideological justices to the bench.” He went on to point out that the Mississippi law the leaked decision is about “has zero—zero exceptions for rape or incest, a position that would have been regarded on the extreme of the extreme not too long ago.”
“This, it seems, is what the hard right wants: forced pregnancies,” he continued. “No exceptions for rape. No exceptions for incest. Republican politicians are telling America’s women ‘your body, our choice.’” Republicans will have to own that, he said. “The vote will tell. Next week, America will be watching.”
That’s fantastically sharp language, and it’s refreshing that Schumer didn’t shy away from the word “abortion,” saying at the outset, “Today I am 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,” and then repeating it. That’s great, but knowing that the legislation won’t pass means that Schumer and Senate Democrats have to have the next step teed up.
That needs to be dealing with that rogue court he railed against in his statement. Momentum is building among Democrats to do that. Here’s Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), part of the House leadership team as a committee chair:
That’s the next fight, the essential fight. Because even if the WHPA were to pass, it would immediately come up against Trump- and McConnell-packed courts. It wouldn’t be allowed to stand.
Will an effort to expand the court make it past Sinema and Manchin? No. Will seeing that Democratic leadership is committed to fighting like hell to secure our rights compel the base to come out in November to grow the Senate majority and make Sinema and Manchin irrelevant? We don’t know that for sure, either, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt to try.
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