May 12, 2022

Senate blocks effort to codify Roe v. Wade

Matthew Reichbach

Protesters of abortion bans march down Central Ave. in Albuquerque.

A vote in the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster on the Women’s Health Protection Act failed on Wednesday.

The Senate took up the issue originally in February when Senate Republicans filibustered the bill. To end the filibuster and allow the Senate to vote on the legislation, Senate Democrats needed 60 votes in support. With one Democrat siding with Republicans and a 50-50 party split in the chamber, Democrats lacked enough votes to try to hear the bill on the floor. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have codified Roe v. Wade in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban expected this summer.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called for a vote to end the filibuster on Wednesday in what some political analysts have referred to as a “performative” vote. Schumer took the opportunity after the vote to urge the public to vote for Democrats in November. Senate Republicans voted unanimously against ending the filibuster.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, was the one Democrat who sided with Republicans. Manchin has said in the past that he opposes abortion rights.

A few Senate Republicans have introduced a narrower version of the bill. The Women’s Health Protection Act would go further than codifying Roe v. Wade. It would end most TRAP [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers] laws that exist in many other states.

New Mexico remains a state without TRAP laws and if the high court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, abortion will remain legal in the state.

But, New Mexico abortion clinics, most of which are located in Albuquerque, are expected to be overwhelmed with patients coming from other states, which could lead to delays for individuals who live in New Mexico from getting a host of reproductive health care, including time-sensitive abortions.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act last year and President Joe Biden has said he will sign it if the Senate passes it.

Both New Mexico Democratic U.S. House of Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández, of the state’s 3rd Congressional District, and Melanie Stansbury, of the 1st Congressional District, voted in favor of the bill last year. U.S. House of Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing the 2nd Congressional District, voted against it.

Both New Mexico Senate Democrats, Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich, voted on Wednesday to end the filibuster. Both support the bill.

Luján said in a released statement that attacks on reproductive health care will “turn back the clock on progress,” and “put the most vulnerable women at risk.”

Heinrich said through a statement that he was “extremely disappointed” and that he trusts that women can make their own healthcare decisions and that “the federal government should too.”