WASHINGTON — In the last week at least nine states have effectively banned abortion since the landmark Supreme Court ruling. Others are expected to soon follow once legal challenges make their way through the courts.
One question emerging now is will Congress or President Joe Biden take any steps to provide access to the controversial procedure in states where new restrictions are taking effect.
CAN CONGRESS DO ANYTHING?
One question is can Congress do anything to expand abortion access in the United States? The answer is yes — if they get the necessary votes.
Many progressives in recent days have called on Congress to codify the right to abortion into federal law.
The Supreme Court put no restriction on Congress passing that and they could legally do it.
However, when the Senate tried to pass the Women's Health Protection Act earlier this year, to do just that, it failed.
The vote was 46-48.
Sixty votes would be needed unless the Senate changed the rules on how they pass bills, which doesn't appear to be happening.
Progressive Democrats do have other ideas though. One idea is to take advantage of the 600-million plus acres of federal lands the federal government owns.
Progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has called on President Biden to try and build abortion clinics or offer abortion services on those sites.
While the federal government does own plenty of land in places like Utah and Arizona — where new restrictions are expected — the White House has been reluctant to try that approach thus far. Other ideas include the federal government increasing legal access to abortion pills that could be mailed to someone.
Not to mention, the Department of Health and Human Services has already said they are considering using taxpayer funds to pay for women to travel to states where abortion is legal.
All of those ideas though have issues something known as the Hyde Amendment. The 1976 policy was named after the late Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois and it essentially bans federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion services in most cases.
Anything that Congress might do regarding abortion funding would need to first get by the Hyde Amendment and that won't be easy. It could be repealed however if enough lawmakers support it.
In fact, passing any new abortion law at the federal level will be difficult with the makeup of the current congress. It appears as though Democrats are going to try.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues this week that she wants to pass a bill guaranteeing the right to travel out-of-state for abortions as well as protecting sensitive data in reproductive health apps.