WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) yesterday joined a group of Senate colleagues in introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion across the nation. The bill’s introduction follows the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments in a case that directly threatens 50 years of precedent protecting access to abortion, and comes as states like Texas continue to pass anti-choice laws.
“It is 2021 and the fact that there are states across the country that still consider women’s health a political issue instead of a human rights issue is unconscionable,” said Sen. Menendez. “It’s time we guarantee full access to abortion for women in every city, town and state in our nation. Turning back the clock half a century is simply not an option, and I urge my colleagues to pass this bill without delay.”
“The repeated attacks on abortion and reproductive health care are an assault to the fundamental idea that a person’s right to make their own medical decisions is an immutable, constitutional right,” said Sen. Booker. “As these injustices threaten the rights and freedoms of all people, the Women’s Health Protection Act is an important step in affirming what the Supreme Court declared decades ago, that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and that Americans have a constitutional right to make their own decisions about their bodies.”
WHPA guarantees a pregnant woman’s right to access 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 access first guaranteed under Roe is a reality for everyone, everywhere.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and in the House by Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.). WHPA has a total of 45 Senate cosponsors and 171 House sponsors.
In May, Sen. Menendez introduced the Reproductive Rights are Humans Rights Act, which would permanently require the U.S. Department of State to include reproductive rights in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
“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.”