Monday, March 27, 2023

Reproductive justice groups disappointed by Democrats’ revised bill to codify Roe

Late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) filed an updated version of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would replace Roe v. Wade will be codified into federal law. The move is a last-minute effort to protect abortion rights in the wake of a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that showed the High Court is set to reverse the row.

The new version of the bill is the same as the old version – except that it does not include the legislative findings, a non-binding part of the bill that gives important context and intent in relation to the proposed legislation. The findings drawn from the new WHPA bill detail the history of abortion restrictions, the way they have intersected with racism, classism and malpractices, and how restrictions now affect the most vulnerable, like those playing out at the state level. Huh. They are the kind of things that help establish the intent of a piece of legislation and can be pointed out to court challenges later.

Several abortion rights groups met with Democratic leadership on Wednesday afternoon to discuss why they stripped the findings from the latest version of the WHPA, sources told HuffPost. Along with Schumer Bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabeno (D-Mich.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) were at the meeting, a source confirmed to HuffPost.

At that meeting, Schumer reportedly told organizations that he was concerned that some senators would take issue with the language included in the findings, causing them to vote against the bill. According to a source close to the story, Schumer estimated that the WHPA could lose up to 10 Democratic votes if its findings of racism and misogyny were incorporated into the law.

Sources said Schumer told the meeting that the purpose of the conclusion was to keep the vote unified. Blumenthal told HuffPost the purpose of the conclusion is “to attract the widest possible support and to avoid any issues unnecessarily divisive.”

Schumer did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

But there is no indication that drawing legislative conclusions will be enough to secure the vote of Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), the only Democrat to block the bill in March. Failed by Filbuster in the Senate, And some abortion rights groups that met with senators on Wednesday said there are real costs to removing the findings, even if they are non-binding.

A source close to the story said they are deeply disappointed by Democrats separating the findings from the bill, especially since it is unlikely the WHPA will pass anyway.

“What’s really frustrating is that we’re working overtime to fix what we’re trying to tackle and what we’ve been worrying about for over a decade – and here they go to vote. Throwing our most important communities under the bus that don’t even exist,” he said. “So once again, Democrats continue to waste our time and don’t really look for abortion rights in a way that’s going to make a difference for patients and providers.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D.n.y.) Arrives For A News Conference At The U.s. Capitol, Where He Addressed The Leaked Draft, Indicating That The Supreme Court Would Reverse Roe V. Wade.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D.N.Y.) arrives for a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, where he addressed the leaked draft, indicating that the Supreme Court would reverse Roe v. Wade.

Tom Williams via Getty Images

As the WHPA bill now stands without findings, many reproductive justice organizations, many of whom co-authored the findings, are not fully supporting it. The “National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum” is not actively supporting or opposing the bill, Sung Yeon Choimoro, executive director of the NAPAWF, told HuffPost.

URGE: Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, was also laid off by the extirpation of communities disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions. “As of this time, I cannot put my full support behind a bill that has stripped away some of the really essential language that is rooted in the values ​​and communities for which we are accountable,” she said.

Planned Parenthood continues to support the bill, despite the findings going forward.

Conclusion of the original bill Contains statements such as “abortion services are essential to health care” and “abortion-specific restrictions are a tool of gender oppression”. They also claim that abortion is “one of the safest medical procedures in the United States.”

Other parts of the findings discuss how abortion restrictions disproportionately affect people of color, young people, people with disabilities, and people in rural areas. The findings also suggest that the WHPA is meant to protect people of all genders, not just women – including “transgender men, non-binary individuals who identify with a different gender, and others”. And they acknowledge the violent history of forced sterilization, rape, slavery, and medical experimentation that black women and other low-income women of color have experienced throughout American history.

Despite the removal of the findings, the purpose and mechanics of the bill remain the same. But abortion advocates tell HuffPost that the bill’s amendment is very disappointing—and another example of how the most marginalized communities are eroded in conversations about abortion.

“We were so disappointed that it’s completely lost on everyone that the people it will have the most impact are only showing up in the WHPA’s findings,” Choimoro said.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure that the stories of those most affected do not get lost in this vote,” he said. “The idea that somehow abortion is only about abortion is very depressing to me…

Wednesday’s meeting with Schumer was attended by larger, more established national reproductive rights organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, as well as smaller national reproductive justice organizations such as NAPAWF, URGE and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Rights. were present. justice.

Among the smaller groups in attendance are many who have collectively written the findings to the WHPA. Most of them focus on targeting young people, people of color, and trans and non-binary people. The organizations themselves are largely made up of people of color.

It was deeply concerning and frustrating for many organizations working over the years to include this important reference in legislation to see edited findings from the bill.

“It was an opportunity to tell the story of what is needed to make reproductive justice real,” Inez McGuire said.

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure that language reflects who has been hurt the most by abortion restrictions,” she said. “We’ve been very clear that those findings are a necessary, real aspect of this bill – and not having them in the bill is a real problem.”

“It was an opportunity to tell the story of what is needed to make reproductive justice a reality.”

– Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity

Planned Parenthood advocates were also disappointed by the removal of the findings.

“Those most hurt by abortion restrictions need to be front and center in responding to the Supreme Court’s attack on our freedoms,” said Karen Stone, vice president of public policy and government relations at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Because of systemic discrimination, black, Latino, indigenous, other people of color, and LGBTQ+ people disproportionately feel the effects of abortion restrictions and restrictions – a product of this country’s legacy of racism and discrimination.”

Abortion rights advocates said Schumer, as a compromise, agreed to read a statement on the findings on the Senate floor at some point before the vote, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

Blumenthal told HuffPost she has had many productive conversations with abortion rights groups, and she is “committed to making it clear that this measure is about racial justice and economic justice — about justice in general — which are at the core of achieving reproductive freedom for all Americans.”

Blumenthal acknowledged that attempting to pass the WHPA in the Senate “is an uphill battle — it has always been an uphill battle.” The senator’s words indicated what some critics have already said: Between the filibuster and the lack of a simple Democratic majority, it is unlikely WHPA will pass the Senate,

The WHPA, originally introduced in Congress in 2013, was last passed in the House, but failed to pass In the Senate in March because of the filibuster.

The non-binding conclusion of the bill may seem somewhat irrelevant when it comes to influencing a legislator’s vote. But at a time when pro-abortion pro-abortion is rapidly losing ground, the findings can make or break a vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of only two remaining Republicans in the Senate who at least purportedly support abortion rights, voted against the bill in March, Citing its “extreme” language,

Democrats still have to finish the filibuster before they can get the WHPA up for a full vote on the Senate floor. Many have cited the filibuster as not a good solution to the WHPA, as it will likely never see an actual Senate vote. Collins, as well as Manchin and Sen. Kirsten Cinema (D-Ariz.), reiterated their support for Filibuster earlier this week. In March, every Democratic senator except Munchkin voted to bring the WHPA to a floor vote.

If passed into law, the WHPA would protect the right to legal abortion care across the country by providing safeguards against state restrictions and medically unnecessary barriers. It would essentially codify Roe, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that expanded access to abortion nationwide. The High Court is expected to overturn Row later this year when it rules in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

“This is not the time for half measures. This is not the time to hold back from telling the truth about what we know,” Inez McGuire said.

“We know that abortion restrictions are racist,” she said. “We know that abortion bans – including this Supreme Court ruling – are rooted in misogyny, that it is rooted in white supremacy and disproportionately harm young black and brown, gay and trans people. We should shout from the rooftops, not wipe out the bills.”

improvement: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Sen. John Osoff (D-Ga.) was absent for a March vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act. In fact, he was present and voted in favor of bringing the bill to the floor vote.


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