Pressley, Blumenthal, Chu, Baldwin, Frankel, Escobar Introduce Bicameral Bill to Guarantee Abortion Care Everywhere

June 8, 2021
Press Release
Legislation would safeguard against anti-abortion laws like Mississippi’s 15-week ban to be argued in front of the Supreme Court next year

Bill Text (PDF) | Press Conference Video

 

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX), introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere. The bill’s introduction follows the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments in a case that directly threatens fifty years of precedent protecting access to abortion, and comes as states like Texas continue to pass anti-choice laws.

Introduced with historic support, WHPA has 176 total co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 48 total co-sponsors in the Senate. The lawmakers announced the bill’s introduction at a virtual press conference earlier today.

“This bill is bold, responsive, and timely legislation that would codify a person’s right to choose, free from government interference, and affirm abortion care as the fundamental human right that it is,” said Rep. Pressley, Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force. “I am grateful to my colleagues and our advocates for their partnership on this bill, and look forward to continuing to organize, mobilize, and legislate until this bill is passed and the ink dries on President Biden’s signature.”

WHPA guarantees a pregnant person’s right to an abortion—and the right of an abortion provider to deliver these abortion services—free from medically unnecessary restrictions that interfere with a patient’s individual choice or the provider-patient relationship.

From Roe v. Wade in 1973 to Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized abortion as a constitutional right. However, anti-abortion advocates have worked for years at the state-level to pass laws meant to undermine or eliminate access to abortion care. In the last decade, state lawmakers have pushed through nearly 500 restrictive laws that make abortion difficult and, sometimes, impossible to access. Just this year, four states have passed bans on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they’re pregnant. Lawmakers in Arkansas and Oklahoma attempted to ban abortion completely. WHPA would stop these attacks and ensure that abortion care first guaranteed under Roe is a reality for everyone, everywhere.

“With the Supreme Court set to consider a direct attack on Roe and as emboldened and extremist lawmakers viciously attack women’s reproductive rights in statehouses across the nation, the Women’s Health Protection Act has never been more urgent or more necessary,” Blumenthal said. “These demagogic and draconian laws hurt women and families as they make personal and difficult medical decisions. This issue is about more than health care, it’s about human rights—all our rights. I’m proud to join this historic coalition of lawmakers in introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act and look forward to taking the next step towards seeing it passed into law by holding a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee on the bill next week.”

“The fight to protect abortion rights for all Americans is more critical than ever now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks, in a direct challenge to the constitutional protections established by Roe v. Wade,” said Chu. “This is part of a deliberate strategy by anti-abortion extremists to use state laws and the courts to slowly chip away at abortion access, with nearly 500 restrictive laws introduced in states since just 2011. That is why we need the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure that no matter where you live, what your background is, or what your zip code, you have the same rights to make decisions about your own body as anyone else.”

“Right now in states across this country, Roe v. Wade is under attack and millions of women are at risk of losing the freedom to make their own personal health decisions,” said Baldwin. “It is past time to stand up to these extreme threats to women's constitutionally protected reproductive rights, which is why I’m championing the Women’s Health Protection Act. Every woman, regardless of where she lives, deserves the freedom to make her own, personal decisions about her health care, her family and her body.”

“We need to trust women to make important decisions about their own reproductive destinies,” said Frankel. “The Women’s Health Protection Act will take the power to make these deeply personal medical decisions out of Governors’ mansions and state legislatures and put it back where it belongs: in the hands of patients and persons they trust.”

“For decades, extremist lawmakers have worked relentlessly to turn back the clock and restrict women’s health and reproductive rights,” said Escobar. “In Texas, Republicans recently passed one of the most draconian laws in the country to ban abortions as early as six weeks – before most women even know they are pregnant, and without making any exceptions for victims of rape or incest. We must urgently pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to preserve women’s access to safe and legal abortions everywhere.”

The text of the House bill – including the full list of cosponsors – is available here.

“The majority of voters want abortion protected under federal law,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We cannot wait any longer. If Roe falls, many states will immediately take action to make abortion a crime. Even now, with constitutional protections in place, state legislators have made it impossible to access abortion in the South and Midwest. Especially for Black people and other people of color who already face barriers to health care. This bill—WHPA—would protect against the hundreds of state restrictions and bans that have pushed abortion out of reach. This is an issue of equal access, everywhere.”

“Abortion access is a racial and economic justice issue. The legacy of restrictions on reproductive health care has perpetuated white supremacy and anti-Black racism. Restrictions on abortion compound harm for members of communities that have historically experienced barriers to health care -- namely people of color, queer and trans folks, and those working to make ends meet. We appreciate that the Women’s Health Protection Act bill language recognizes that Reproductive Justice is a human right and that every individual should be able to decide whether and how to have children based on their own circumstances and without interference or discrimination,” said Danielle Hurd-Wilson (they/them), Interim Deputy Director of Field and Programs at URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity. “The future I want to see is one where anyone can get an abortion with dignity and without barriers. The Women's Health Protection Act would help cut the tangled web of restrictions that anti-abortion politicians have enacted to shame and stigmatize our decisions and deny us timely health care.”

As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to protect comprehensive reproductive health care for all, including abortion care.

  • Over the course of her first term serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has filed amendments every year to repeal the Hyde Amendment from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July published a Medium post on the importance of doing so.
  • In April, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians.
  • In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access.
  • In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade. In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription. 

In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.

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