Senate Democratic ;eader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speak after the Senate failed to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, which would protect a woman's right to abortion, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
May 11 (UPI) -- The Senate on Wednesday voted against a largely symbolic proposal to safeguard legalized abortion nationwide by enshrining the practice in federal law -- a steep uphill battle that had been aimed at heading off a conservative-majority Supreme Court that appears poised to strike down Roe vs. Wade in the near future.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with Republicans to block the legislation in a 49-51 vote. Democrats would've needed a supermajority of 60 votes for it to pass without a filibuster.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said he was "angry" lawmakers failed to protect reproductive rights.
"It's simple: most Americans support the right of a woman to make her own medical decisions. It's been an established right for 50 years. The Senate should recognize that and act," he tweeted.
For years, Democrats and progressives have called on Congress to codify legal abortion into federal law, but the movement gained traction after the leaked Supreme Court opinion last week that signaled that its six conservative justices plan to overturn the landmark 1973 decision before the high court's term ends in June.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer organized the vote to take place Wednesday.
Schumer said this week that neither Supreme Court justices nor Republican politicians ought to have the power to "take away the rights of a hundred million American women." He added that women having control over their own bodies would "vanish in the blink of an eye" if the court overturns its previous decision on the issue.
President Joe Biden said before the vote that he would sign a bill codifying legal abortion into federal law, which would likely have passed in the Democratic-controlled House. He decried the Senate vote in a statement Wednesday evening.
"Republicans in Congress -- not one of whom voted for this bill -- have chosen to stand in the way of Americans' rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives," he said. "To protect the right to choose, voters need to elect more pro-choice senators this November, and return a pro-choice majority to the House. If they do, Congress can pass this bill in January and put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law."
If the high court does ultimately overturn Roe vs. Wade, the move would leave it up to each individual state to determine whether abortion is legal. Several, including Texas and Mississippi, have already passed strict laws against the practice and some have laws already set to take effect if the Supreme Court strikes down the law.
Wednesday's vote on the Women's Health Protection Act would protect a woman's freedom to decide whether to "continue or end a pregnancy," and safeguard healthcare providers' ability to offer abortions.
Additionally, the bill would ban some of the restrictions that have already been enacted in some Republican-led states -- such as mandatory ultrasounds, waiting periods and laws forcing medical providers to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals.
The purpose of Wednesday's vote was mostly that it's a referendum on abortion. The move will put voting senators on record regarding their views on the practice, which has always been a divisive issue in the United States.
According to The Washington Post, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin are working on a strategy to cover the next potential steps if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joins abortion rights activists Tuesday outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the leak of a draft majority opinion suggesting the court would overturn Roe vs. Wade later this year. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo