Our right to access abortion is under the heaviest fire it has been since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Right now in Texas, the constitutional right to abortion is effectively meaningless. On Sept. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed an extreme abortion ban to go into effect there, blocking all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they’re pregnant. Texas’ ban wasn’t the first attempt by states to block access to legal abortion care, and it won’t be the last.
Since 2011, state lawmakers (often in concert with their religious extremist allies), have pushed more than 500 restrictive anti-abortion laws through state legislatures. These laws make it harder or impossible for people to access abortion, force providers to give medically inaccurate or misleading information to their patients, and require patients to undergo medically unnecessary and sometimes invasive medical procedures. In some states, lawmakers have gone to the utmost extreme, trying to pass draconian bills that ban abortion outright or ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Texas is just the latest example of a six-week state ban.
All this will come to a head in December, when the U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that takes direct aim at the constitutional right to abortion promised in Roe. Even if Roe still stands, lawmakers and their religious extremist allies will continue to decimate the right to access legal abortion care.
That’s why Congress must act now to pass a federal bill that will protect the right to abortion against harmful, medically unnecessary restrictions and draconian abortion bans in any state. That bill is the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) (S. 1975/H.R. 3755), and the House of Representatives plans to vote on it today.
What does WHPA do to protect access to abortion? WHPA provides clear guidance to states and courts about the abortion rights of providers and patients. The bill establishes a statutory right for abortion providers to provide, and their patients to receive, abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions, bans and delays. If states continue to impose abortion restrictions that WHPA doesn’t allow, the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as providers and individuals, could go to court to enforce the right to abortion. And if Roe v. Wade were to fall, WHPA would continue to protect abortion access across the country.
As an organization dedicated to the separation of church and state, Americans United supports WHPA because it protects the religious freedom of all Americans to make their own reproductive decisions in line with their own religions and beliefs. Decisions about abortion must be made by pregnant people, not politicians. And religious extremists should never impose their own religious beliefs on all of us through our shared laws.
But that’s not all. We know that abortion care is essential to social and economic equality. When women who want an abortion are denied one, studies find that they incur economic hardship and insecurity that lasts for years. Plus, abortion restrictions don’t affect everyone equally: those who are hit the hardest are women; LGBTQ people; Black, Indigenous and people of color; poor people; immigrants; young people; residents of rural communities and people with disabilities. In an equitable and just society, all people, particularly marginalized people, deserve to determine the direction of their lives. Let’s trust people to make decisions that are best for their lives, their families, and their bodies.
For all these reasons, it’s more vital than ever that the House of Representatives passes WHPA today.
We need your help: urge your member of Congress to vote YES on WHPA right now. With your help, we can pass WHPA and ensure that our right to access abortion will not be ripped away.