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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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On Dobbs anniversary, Dems double down on reproductive rights

Two years after the Supreme Court ruling that rolled back the constitutional right to an abortion, lawmakers warned that, without decisive action, a national abortion ban could be on the horizon.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Congressional Democrats on Monday renewed calls to protect reproductive freedoms on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that threw national abortion rights into jeopardy.

Monday marked two years since the high court decided in a controversial 2022 ruling to override the constitutional right to an abortion, a precedent set roughly half a century ago in the case Roe v. Wade.

In the years following the court’s decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization nearly two dozen states have used it as a basis for severe restrictions on abortion, and in some cases have implemented near-total bans on the practice.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats furious about the ruling have made efforts to enshrine abortion rights into federal law — and have warned that conservative advocates who championed the Dobbs decision have no plans to stop at abortion.

“The last two years have exposed the true aim of anti-choice extremists,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin wrote in a statement Monday. “They seek a national abortion ban, and they are not even open to basic protections for contraception and assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization.”

The Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos used for in vitro fertilization should be considered children under state law and made destroying such embryos a crime. Although state legislators approved a bill shielding IVF clinics and Republicans have come out in support of the procedure, Democrats have held up Alabama as an example of conservatives’ post-Dobbs policy creep.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who in February reintroduced legislation aimed at codifying abortion rights into federal law, issued a similar warning.

“These efforts to restrict reproductive health care haven’t stopped with abortion,” he said Monday in a prerecorded video statement. “They’re also threatening access to contraception and IVF, services that millions of Americans rely on to decide whether, when and how to start and grow their families.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hammered home that argument, pointing out in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Republicans had blocked a group of Democratic bills aimed at establishing legal protections for both IVF and contraceptives.

“We will continue to push back against this MAGA extremism,” he said.

Democrats, who control the Senate by a slim majority, brought up the IVF and contraception legislation using a procedural mechanism known as unanimous consent. The process would have allowed the bills to clear the upper chamber without a roll call vote — but any one lawmaker can withhold their consent and scuttle the entire process. On both occasions, Senate Republicans objected to the unanimous consent requests.

Democrats similarly objected to legislation proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Alabama Senator Katie Britt, which they said would punish states that enact restrictions on IVF by cutting off access to federal health care funding.

Meanwhile, Democrats also doubled down on their commitment to restore abortion rights two years after the Dobbs decision.

“Our bodily autonomy is not up for debate,” said Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar on X, adding that restrictions on reproductive freedom are “an assault on human rights” and that Democrats must work to ensure that access to abortion once again becomes the law of the land.

“On the 2nd anniversary of the disastrous, outrageous and deadly Dobbs decision, I want women to know that I understand the fear and hopelessness that comes from watching your rights being stripped away,” said New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I won’t stop fighting until we’ve restored what’s been taken from us.”

Kaine concurred.

“On the anniversary of the Dobbs decision, and every day, I’m committed to restoring Americans’ rights to make their own personal health care decisions,” he said, “through legislation like my bipartisan Reproductive Freedom for All Act.”

And Durbin added that time was short for decisive action.

“Unless we act,” he said, “more — and more severe — restrictions are coming.”

But Republicans, some of whom celebrated the anniversary of the Dobbs decision Monday, have been skeptical of the recent legislative push to enshrine reproductive freedoms into federal law.

“We’re doing a series of show votes,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune said of the IVF and contraception bills during a news conference last week. “We’re voting on all kinds of things that are not going anywhere. They’re all political show votes, because this is an election season.”

Republicans have accused their Democratic colleagues of fearmongering on issues such as IVF access, which they argue GOP lawmakers largely support.

But Democrats and advocates worry that if former President Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for this year’s election, wins in November, it could spell disaster for reproductive freedoms.

Speaking at the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference in Washington over the weekend, Trump touted his role in appointing three Supreme Court justices who formed the backbone of the Dobbs decision.

But the former president stopped short of promising a national abortion ban if he were elected, warning that such a policy could hurt Republicans at the ballot box.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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