After a leaked draft ruling provided the most concrete evidence yet that the Supreme Court's right-wing majority is set to end the constitutional right to abortion, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez late Monday said Democrats in Congress must pull out all the stops to enshrine Roe v. Wade into federal law as "people's futures and equality are on the line."
"We need all of the above. This is an emergency."
"People elected Democrats precisely so we could lead in perilous moments like these—to codify Roe, hold corruption accountable, and have a president who uses his legal authority to break through congressional gridlock on items from student debt to climate," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote in a pair of tweets. "It's high time we do it."
"If we don't, what message does that send? We can't sit around, finger point, and hand-wring," the New York Democrat added. "It's time to be decisive, lead with confidence, fight for a prosperous future for all, and protect the vulnerable."
In September 2021—weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court let Texas' draconian abortion ban take effect—the House of Representatives passed the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), legislation that would enshrine into federal law the right to abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions such as mandatory waiting periods, which are commonplace in states across the U.S.
"Removing medically unjustified restrictions on abortion services would constitute one important step on the path toward realizing reproductive justice," the legislation states. "This Act is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others—who are unjustly harmed by restrictions on abortion services."
"If there aren't 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."
But the bill has stalled in the U.S. Senate thanks to opposition from the entire Republican caucus and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), an opponent of abortion who has previously voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Earlier this year, Manchin joined Senate Republicans in filibustering the WHPA.
Other progressive lawmakers joined Ocasio-Cortez in calling on Democratic leaders to do everything in their power—including launching another push to abolish the 60-vote legislative filibuster—to defend abortion rights from the Supreme Court and Republicans, who are reportedly scheming to pursue a nationwide abortion ban if they take control of Congress in November and the high court overturns Roe.
"This will endanger the very people who need access to legal abortion," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said of the leaked draft ruling authored by right-wing Justice Samuel Alito.
The draft opinion states that Roe, a 1973 decision, was "egregiously wrong from the start" and should be overturned along with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 ruling that largely reaffirmed Roe.
"The Senate must pass the House legislation to codify Roe, abolish the filibuster, and expand SCOTUS," Tlaib added late Monday.
Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) tanked their party's attempt to temporarily weaken the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation earlier this year and—to the dismay of progressives—Democrats have done nothing since to diminish the 60-vote rule's power.
"Abolish the filibuster. Codify Roe. Expand the Supreme Court. Protect abortion rights by any means necessary," Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) tweeted Tuesday. "We need all of the above. This is an emergency."
In a joint statement after Politico published Alito's draft opinion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) condemned the document as an "abomination," arguing it would mark "one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history."
But the Democratic leaders didn't provide any indication that they intend to target the filibuster as part of a renewed effort to pass the WHPA.
Speaking to CBS News Monday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—the lead sponsor of the WHPA in the Senate—said congressional Democrats are "going to support states that resist" the Supreme Court but lamented that options at the federal level are "limited" due to the party's narrow majority in the upper chamber.
Such an excuse for inaction is unlikely to satisfy progressive members of Congress or advocates who are planning to take to the streets in the nation's capital and across the country Tuesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, urged his colleagues to "pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW."
"And if there aren't 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not," Sanders added, "we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes."