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Once again, a group of senators, including Susan Collins, has drafted a bill to write the abortion protections that were in the recently overturned Roe v. Wade decision into federal law. Once again, it appears that the legislation has little chance of passing.
This is unfortunate, not only because of the dangerous patchwork of abortion restrictions that was unleashed by the Supreme Court’s June decision, but also because the majority of Americans support what the Reproductive Freedom For All Act would do, namely confirming that women have a right to abortion care, but that some restrictions on that care are acceptable.
The bill would enshrine a right to make “reproductive decisions without undue government interference” into federal law.
In addition to overturning Roe, the court’s conservative majority also overturned the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe but established the “undue interference” standard for restrictions on abortion. The new act would restore this standard for state restrictions on abortion. It would also prohibit states from banning abortions that are necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.
“The Supreme Court’s recent abandonment of longstanding precedent erodes the reproductive rights on which women have relied for half a century. These basic rights need to be the same for American women regardless of the state in which they reside,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a press release announcing the Reproductive Freedom for All Act. “Our bill would restore the right to obtain an abortion by enacting in federal law Roe v. Wade and other seminal Supreme Court decisions pertaining to reproductive freedom. In addition, our bill would protect access to contraception.”
This legislation would essentially return America to the place it was before the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. This is where most Americans believe the U.S. should be on abortion policy, according to decades of polling by Gallup.
Eighty-five percent of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. Only 13 percent believe it should be illegal in all circumstances, according to the most recent Gallup polling. That is the strongest level of support for legal abortion registered by the polling firm since 1994.
Before the June 24 Supreme Court ruling, nearly two-thirds of Americans said overturning Roe v. Wade would be a bad thing.
In a potential bellwether for future efforts to restrict abortion, voters in Kansas this week strongly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that sought to remove abortion protections and was viewed as a path to an abortion ban.
At the same time, Americans do favor some limits on abortion. Of those who support abortion, 50 percent in the May Gallup poll, said abortion should be legal only some of the time. Two-thirds said abortion should be legal during the first three months of a pregnancy. A slim majority, 55 percent, believe that abortion should be illegal after the first three months of pregnancy, and 71 percent believe it should be illegal during the final three months of pregnancy.
However, the majority of those asked opposed bans on abortion after the 18th week of pregnancy, after a fetal heartbeat was detected and when fetal abnormalities were detected, Gallup found in polling in 2021.
Democrats last year introduced their own legislation, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which expanded protections for abortion care and banned some restrictions such as waiting periods and requirements for ultrasounds before the procedure. That bill has no support from Republicans.
Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined Collins in introducing the new bipartisan legislation. It faces an uphill battle because 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, expected from Republican senators.
Americans want abortion to be legal, with reasonable restrictions. This new legislation is a way to return to that common sense standard.