Four members of U.S. Senate unveil bipartisan bill ensuring nationwide abortion rights

by Jennifer Shutt, New Jersey Monitor

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators released legislation Monday that would codify Roe v. Wade, ensuring pregnant patients throughout the country once again have the right to an abortion. 

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said the measure, called the Reproductive Freedom For All Act, would protect access to abortion and contraception. 

The bill is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned a 1973 decision that established abortion as a constitutional right.

“For five decades, reproductive health care decisions were centered with the individual — we cannot go back in time in limiting personal freedoms for women,” Murkowski said in a written statement announcing the bill. 

The proposal would prevent state governments from limiting abortion access before viability, often 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy — similar to what the law was before the Dobbs decision. It would allow state governments to limit or ban abortions after that point as long as there’s an exception for the pregnant patient’s life or health. 

State governments would be allowed to “enact reasonable regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy,” as long as those regulations didn’t place an undue burden on people seeking an abortion before viability.

State restrictions on abortion would be considered an “undue burden” if they placed “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability.”

The bipartisan bill would likely elicit a stronger floor vote than an abortion rights bill Senate Democrats brought to the floor in May, though it’s unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to move past that chamber’s legislative filibuster. 

Collins and Murkowski opposed the bill Democrats brought up earlier this year, saying it went further than codifying Roe v. Wade. 

Ever since, they’ve been working with Kaine and Sinema to craft a bipartisan agreement. 

It’s unclear if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, plans to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. 

Sinema said in the statement announcing the agreement that the “​​legislation protects the health and wellbeing of women in Arizona and across the country by ensuring all women — no matter where they live — can access the health care they need and have the ability to make their own decisions about their futures.”

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