Bid to enshrine key abortion ruling into federal law fails to pass in US Senate

A Senate bid to enshrine Roe v Wade into US federal law failed on Wednesday, after it was blocked by a Republican filibuster.

Roe v Wade is a landmark 1973 ruling which established the constitutional right to abortion access in the US. A draft ruling from the country’s Supreme Court, leaked last week, suggested it would be overturned.

Democrats have launched rushed efforts to protect the ruling, including attempting to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v Wade.

The vote fell broadly along party lines, with 51-49 against proceeding. Sixty votes are needed to move ahead.

One conservative Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, voted with the Republicans, saying that he supported keeping Roe v Wade but believed the current bill was too broad.

Security was tight at the Capitol during the vote. It has also been boosted at the Supreme Court after extensive protests following the leak of the draft.

House Democrats marched to the Senate chanting ‘my body, my decision’.

Following the vote, US President Joe Biden accused Republicans of choosing “to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives.”

“To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January, and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law,” he said in a statement.

“The protections that the Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure are essential to the health, safety, and progress of our nation. While it did not pass today, my Administration will not stop fighting to protect access to women’s reproductive care.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who presided over the vote, said afterwards that “the Senate is not where the majority of Americans are on this issue.”

Prior to the vote, Democratic senators spoke in favour of enshrining Roe v Wade, warning that blocking abortion access would risk safety and roll back a key step in women’s rights.

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Sixteen states have laws which protect abortion rights, meaning it is likely that abortion would remain legal there.

But according to the Guttmacher Institute, 23 states have laws which could be used to restrict legal abortion.

This includes 13 states which have laws which would ban all, or nearly all, abortions if Roe v Wade was overturned.

It also includes nine states which have restrictions on abortions currently blocked by courts but could be brought into effect if the landmark ruling was overturned, and seven states have laws which “express the intent to restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent permitted” by the Supreme Court.

AP contributed to reporting.

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