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Senate Republicans block bill to protect abortion rights

Democrats came up short in their attempt to head off the Supreme Court’s expected reversal of Roe v. Wade.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a bill on Wednesday that would have enshrined access to abortion services into federal law before the U.S. Supreme Court can overturn Roe v. Wade

The 49-51 vote came about a week after Politico first reported on a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion to reverse the nearly 50-year-old ruling that declares a constitutional right to abortion.

Expecting that the Supreme Court will soon overturn the landmark 1973 decision, Democrats who narrowly control the Senate rushed Wednesday to vote on legislation that would codify a right to abortion at the national level.

The bill was never expected to pass due to the Democrats’ slim majority in Congress and controversial filibuster rules that require 60 votes for legislation to move ahead in the Senate.

But, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer repeatedly stated that the vote was critical nonetheless. The Democrat from New York said earlier on Wednesday that the bill will “be the most important piece of legislation before Congress in decades.”

Democrats came up short during Wednesday’s vote, which Vice President Kamala Harris presided over. 

Schumer said that if the high court ultimately reverses Roe, it would be "one of the worst and most damaging cases in the entire history of the Supreme Court."

Another attempt to guarantee abortion access through the Women’s Health Protection Act failed by a vote of 46-48 earlier this year, with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia siding with Republicans. 

Manchin also voted against Wednesday’s legislation, which carried the same name.

“My granddaughters will have fewer rights than I did,” Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state said ahead of Wednesday’s vote, warning of what may come should the bill fail.

 “We are about to see a tidal wave of abortion bans across the country,” she added.

She said a reversal of Roe would impact everyone, but mostly Black women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, women in rural communities, immigrant women and those in gay and transgender communities.

“I am scared and I am frightened for women in this country more than I have been before,” Murray said. 

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont echoed her concerns.

“Here we are today, a body of 100, 76% of which are male, making decisions about the private lives of the nearly 168 million women in this country,” Leahy said before the vote.

The GOP has long attempted to fill the nation’s highest court with justices hostile to the Roe decision. The leaked draft opinion of the conservative majority court was penned by Justice Samuel Alito, a George W. Bush appointee.

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