Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a bill protecting abortion rights for the second time in less than a year. The vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which passed 219-210 , came just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked the constitutional right to abortion.
If enacted, the bill would protect the right to access abortion across the country, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 24 that abandoned almost 50 years of precedent and paved the way for states to ban abortion.
“The Supreme Court has failed to protect our rights, and we applaud the House for taking action,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We are seeing the start of a public health crisis that is becoming more dire by the day. Pregnant people are being denied access to life-saving health care. States are banning abortion and proposing legislation that would prevent their residents from getting abortion care in states where it is legal. The two bills voted on today are critical to ensure that people can get the health care they need.”
Following the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, anti-abortion lawmakers have rushed to ban abortion outright—a step that half of U.S. states are expected to take in the coming days and months. (See the Center’s “After Roe Fell: Abortion Laws by State” map to find out where abortion is now illegal.)
The Women’s Health Protection Act would create a new federal protection for providers to provide, and patients to access, abortion care. These protections would extend nationwide—even in the states that have already moved to ban abortion.
The U.S. House of Representatives first passed WHPA in a historic vote in September 2021 following the enforcement of a Texas six-week abortion ban, S.B. 8, that ended most abortion access in the state. WHPA passed in what was the first congressional vote on proactive, standalone abortion rights legislation ever. In the Senate, the bill did not garner enough votes to overcome the filibuster.
The Court’s decision to overturn Roe prompted the bill’s lead House sponsors, Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) to reintroduce the bill for another vote in the 117th Congress.
States Rushing to Ban Abortion
Since the Dobbs decision, anti-abortion state lawmakers have rushed to ban abortion. Already, several states have made abortion illegal or effectively eliminated access to abortion care. The state bans and restrictions are leaving thousands of people unable to access abortion care. Those unable to travel or access medication abortion are being forced to carry pregnancies against their will.
In Mississippi—where the Dobbs case originated—abortion is now illegal after the state’s trigger ban prohibiting abortion in nearly all situations took effect. In addition, the last clinic in the state—Jackson Women’s Health Organization—was forced to close its doors on July 7, less than two weeks after the Court’s decision.
Abortion bans, like the one now eliminating access in Mississippi and several other states, are most harmful for people who already face racism and other forms of discrimination when accessing health care—particularly Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, women, young people, individuals in the LGBTQI+ community, people in rural areas, immigrants, and people living on lower incomes.
Broad Coalition Keeps up the Fight to Advance WHPA
The Center for Reproductive Rights is part of a broad coalition of more than 150 organizations spearheading the effort to build support for WHPA. The coalition—made up of organizations committed to sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice—has been building support for WHPA for nearly a decade.
In September 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued a Statement of Administrative Policy supporting passage of WHPA in the House. Following the Supreme Court decision, President Biden called on Congress to suspend the filibuster in order to protect abortion rights in federal law.
House Also Passes Bill to Protect the Right to Travel
In addition to voting on WHPA, the House passed, by a vote of 223-205, another critical piece of federal legislation to protect the right to travel to access abortion care. The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act of 2022 (H.R. 8297), a bill also endorsed by the Center, would prohibit interference with the provision of, access to, or assistance for abortion care across state lines.
Legislators in states hostile to abortion rights, in addition to banning abortion, are concocting ways to prohibit people from traveling across state lines to access or provide abortion care—in clear violation of the constitutional right to interstate travel.
H.R. 8297 would reaffirm the right to interstate travel so that people traveling to seek abortion care, and the people who help them, are able to do so without the threat of civil or criminal penalties