Senate to Vote on Women’s Health Protection Act

Senate to Vote on Women’s Health Protection Act

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the controversial Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) on Feb. 28. The bill, which pro-lifers say would more accurately be called Abortion on Demand, would codify abortion rights into federal law and threaten states’ regulation of abortion even if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Last September, the U.S. House voted 218-211, largely along party lines, to pass the pro-abortion legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised the bill would go before the Senate in the “very near future.” Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas was the only Democrat to vote against it. 

WHPA was first introduced in the Congress in 2013 and has been reintroduced every year since. 

The legislation’s stated purpose is “to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.”

The bill has strong support from the current administration. 

On Sept. 20, the Executive Office of the President issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) announcing that the Biden administration “strongly supports” passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act. The White House wrote, “In the wake of Texas’ unprecedented attack, it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and to strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live.” 

If enacted, WHPA would protect the right to access abortion in every state, even if  Roe v. Wade  were weakened or overturned, claims the Center for Reproductive Rights.

But according to the Family Research Council (FRC), the bill would also overturn state laws requiring informed consent, waiting periods, and counseling prior to receiving an abortion.

It also places a prohibition on limiting abortion at any point prior to fetal viability, which is 24 weeks.

“This provision would invalidate laws like Texas’ Heartbeat Act (SB 8), which the U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed to stand,” FRC said in an email urging people to lobby against the measure. “Although this bill uses the language of viability, it does not define it, meaning abortionists are empowered to make the ultimate determination.”

Finally, the bill blocks laws that prevent abortion services via telemedicine, meaning mail-order chemical abortion pills would be enshrined into federal law rather than allowed by FDA regulations. 

Removing the requirement for in-person interaction with a medical professional in order to be prescribed abortion pills would further isolate victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking from those trained to identify and help them, FRC says. Furthermore, the bill prohibits states from restricting “a particular abortion procedure,” meaning dismemberment abortions that cause fetal pain and other procedures would be legal. 

While framed as a simple codification of the abortion precedent set up in Roe v. Wade, this bill goes much further by enshrining late-term abortion into federal law and repealing nearly every pro-life law passed by the states. 

Schumer took steps to set up a vote on the bill when the Senate returns from recess at the end of February, saying the Senate would move forward on the legislation “because a woman’s right to choose is a fundamental right.”

WHPA would codify rights for abortionists and women seeking abortion, and would prohibit restrictions like ultrasound requirements, bans on medication abortion and abortion bans that take effect before the government’s 24-week viability definition. 

According to an article in Forbes: 

  • The bill would supersede state-level restrictions on abortion and would expressly prohibit any measure that “impedes access to abortion.”
  • The bill would not apply to laws that prohibit government-based or other health insurance plans from covering abortions.

Photo: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Live News

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