U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have joined more than 40 of their senatorial colleagues in introducing a bill that would guarantee the right to abortion across the country. This would provide a critical safeguard if the Supreme Court attempts to undermine Roe v. Wade.
The bill, titled the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, states that “Reproductive Justice is a human right that can and will be achieved when all people, regardless of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex (including gender identity, sex stereotyping, or sexual orientation), age, or disability status have the economic, social, and political power and resources to define and make decisions about their bodies, health, sexuality, families, and communities in all areas of their lives, with dignity and self-determination.”
“For over 50 years, the law has supported a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” said Hickenlooper. “But state legislatures and conservative groups are still working nonstop to strip that right away. We must protect Roe v. Wade now and forever.”
Roe v. Wade received a significant challenge last month when the Supreme Court decided to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a case concerning a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Up until now, the Supreme Court has upheld its 1973 decision, but the case presents a direct challenge to Roe unlike any other since it was decided.
With three Trump-appointed justices having joined the court since 2016, Roe has been put in serious jeopardy, and court watchers and reproductive rights experts are anticipating a major blow to constitutional protections for abortion. If Roe is weakened or overturned, abortion services would be endangered across the US, and half of all states would likely eliminate legal access to the procedure altogether.
“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade next June, 24 states could immediately prohibit abortion entirely,” said Karen Middleton, president of Cobalt, a grassroots organization advancing reproductive rights in Colorado. “Colorado is not one of them — but we also don’t have anything protective of abortion access in state law, which is why we need the Women’s Health Protection Act.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act was first introduced in 2013, and has been reintroduced in every subsequent congressional session. In 2019, the bill had 43 cosponsors in the Senate, and 217 cosponsors in the House of Representatives; however, like in all previous sessions, it died in committee before it could go to a vote.
“We have a pro-choice majority in the House, and we need to act like it,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) during a press conference Tuesday.
This year, the bill has 45 Senatorial cosponsors and 171 cosponsors in the House so far. It remains to be seen whether the Women’s Health Protection Act will receive a vote in this session.
“Every person deserves the right to make their own health care decisions, but across the country, politicians are attempting to strip away reproductive rights,” said Bennet. “In the face of challenges to Roe v. Wade, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine access to reproductive care into law once and for all.”