As members of the U.S. Congress introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act, the Center for Reproductive Rights is announcing new research showing that a solid majority of U.S. voters support passage of federal legislation that would protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States. The Women’s Health Protection Act, also known as WHPA, is being introduced today with 176 original co-sponsors in the House and 48 supporters in the Senate, record-high support for the bill at introduction.
The nationally representative polling, conducted by Hart Research, found that 61% of voters support passage of a national law that would protect the constitutional right to access abortion by creating a nationwide safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. The Women’s Health Protection Act would accomplish that. Read the poll results.
“This poll sends a clear message to Congress: the majority of voters want abortion protected under federal law,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We cannot wait any longer. If Roe falls, many states will immediately take action to make abortion a crime. Even now, with constitutional protections in place, state legislators have made it impossible to access abortion in the South and Midwest—especially for Black people and other people of color who already face barriers to health care. This bill—WHPA—would protect against the hundreds of state restrictions and bans that have pushed abortion out of reach. This is an issue of equal access, everywhere.”
The Women’s Health Protection Act Creates New Legal Protection for Abortion Access
The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 creates a new legal protection for providers to provide abortion care, and their patients to receive care, free from medically unnecessary restrictions and bans on abortion that impede access to care. This new legal protection would safeguard access to abortion in every state against restrictions like six-week and 15-week bans, mandatory delay periods, biased counseling, and medically unnecessary ultrasounds.
The bill is being introduced today by lead sponsors Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The Center is part of a coalition of more than 100 organizations that make up a national campaign to advocate for and advance the legislation.
The Center has been supporting WHPA since it was first introduced in 2013 and in every Congress since, earning more support with each introduction. In 2020, Northup testified in support of WHPA before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee in the first hearing on proactive legislation to protect abortion access in the House in nearly 30 years.
To mark the reintroduction of WHPA 2021, members of the Center’s Creative Council–comprised of individuals from the arts, entertainment, fashion, and other industries who raise awareness of the Center’s work–created a video highlighting the urgent need for Congress to act. View the video.
U.S. Abortion Rights and Access Under Attack
WHPA is being reintroduced just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case—on a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy—that presents a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The 1973 Roe decision recognized the constitutional right to abortion and has been repeatedly upheld by the Court ever since.
Nearly seven in 10 voters believe that the constitutional right to abortion should be protected, according to the new research. And when informed that 24 states are likely to ban abortion completely if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 58% of voters nationwide said that this is a big concern.
If enacted, WHPA would protect the right to access abortion care in every state, even if Roe v. Wade were weakened or overturned.
Even with Roe v. Wade, state lawmakers continue to pass laws that push abortion care out of reach, particularly for people who already face barriers to accessing health care and who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic—including Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), women living on low incomes, and people working to make ends meet.
In the last decade, lawmakers have passed nearly 500 state-level laws designed to restrict abortion to the point of elimination. And the 2021 state legislative session is shaping up to be the most harmful for abortion rights and access in decades, with lawmakers passing more than 70 state-level restrictions on abortion—and introducing scores more. These laws impose burdensome and unnecessary obstacles for people seeking care—including mandatory delays, biased and factually incorrect counseling, two-trip requirements, and mandated ultrasounds.
By passing WHPA, Congress would protect abortion rights and access nationwide, taking a critical step toward making sure every person is free to make the best health care decisions for themselves, their families, and their futures.
SURVEY METHODOLOGY: Hart Research conducted the nationally representative online survey from January 15, 2021 to January 20, 2021 among 1,629 registered voters. The sample is demographically, geographically, and politically representative of the 2020 electorate nationally. Read the poll results here.