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Roe vs. Wade: Democrats search for path to protect legal abortion in face of bleak Senate chances

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 5/4/2022 Doug Cunningham

May 4 (UPI) -- After the bombshell leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion ruling in Roe vs. Wade, congressional Democrats have begun work on legislation that would codify legalized abortion in federal law -- even though it's virtually assured that they don't have the votes to get it to President Joe Biden's desk.

Progressive lawmakers and abortion rights advocates have been exploring any means available to protect the 1973 ruling since the draft opinion was leaked late on Monday -- and Biden has already said that he'd sign a bill that enshrines Roe vs. Wade into federal law.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said on Tuesday that party leadership is searching for answers, but most observers have pointed out a cold reality -- Democrats don't have the votes to make it happen.

A bill codifying Roe vs. Wade into law wouldn't face much of a problem in the House, where Democrats have a 221-209 majority. It's in the Senate where they have a mountain to climb.

Under current Senate rules, any bill to protect legalized abortion would require 60 votes to avoid a filibuster. Democrats there have only a 51-50 edge, meaning they'd need to find nine Republicans willing to support the bill -- a prospect most observers see as a virtual impossibility.

The other option to Democrats is ending the filibuster, which would then only require a simple majority to pass a law codifying abortion protections into federal law. That concept, however, has already been rebuffed once this year by moderate Democrats Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

House Republican leaders said on Tuesday that the leak of the draft opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito and joined by the other four conservative justices, is potentially "a decision that protects our most basic and precious right, the right to life."

In the opinion, which the Supreme Court confirmed is authentic, Alito writes that the high court's ruling in Roe vs. Wade was "egregiously wrong from the start." That ruling legalized abortion in all 50 states. If it's overturned, each individual state must determine on its own whether the practice is allowed by law.

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An activist holds a coat hanger -- which has long been a symbol of unlawful abortions in the U.S. before Roe vs. Wade -- outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group, 13 states -- including Texas and Mississippi -- already have post-Roe laws that would ban all or nearly all abortions at the moment Roe vs. Wade is struck down.

The institute says that 16 states -- including California and New York -- and the District of Columbia have laws expressly protecting abortion rights, while 9 retain unenforced pre-Roe abortion bans.

Later on Tuesday, lawmakers in California begun to work on getting abortion rights into the state constitution. In New York, Attorney General Letitia James offered a personal story as an example of Roe vs. Wade's impact.

Addressing a crowd of abortion rights activists in Manhattan, James said she had an abortion nearly 20 years ago after she was elected to the New York City Council.

"I was just elected and I was faced with the decision of whether to have an abortion or not, and I chose to have an abortion," she said according to NBC News. "I walked proudly into Planned Parenthood, and I make no apologies to anyone."

James emphasized that no judge of the Supreme Court ought to be able to "dictate" how women use their bodies.

The demonstrators in New York were just a share of activists who rallied on Tuesday after the opinion leaked. More than a thousand remained in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night. They'd begun to gather there almost 24 hours earlier. The crowd also included anti-abortion demonstrators.

Several political leaders, including Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, have said that striking down Roe vs. Wade would lead Americans down a path on which they might lose other liberties, such as birth control and same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court verified on Tuesday that the leaked opinion is authentic, but emphasized that it doesn't represent a final determination of the court. Chief Justice John Roberts also said that he's ordered an investigation to find out where the leak came from.


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