A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill it said is a step toward codifying the Supreme Court’s recently overturned Roe v. Wade decision. Two Democrats and two Republicans wrote the Reproductive Freedom for All Act, a bill that states Americans are guaranteed the freedom to make certain reproductive decisions without undue government interference.
“Essentially we tried to put ourselves in a time machine after Dobbs, and travel back to the day before the Dobbs decision. It was a very narrow focus,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said on the Senate floor.
If the bill passes, states would not be allowed to limit access to contraceptives or ban abortion before fetal viability. A state can regulate abortions after fetal viability as long as there are exceptions for cases when the mother’s health is in danger. The bill defines fetal viability as the time when a doctor determines there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb.
The senators said having a federal law in place will prevent a patchwork of 50 different bills from state to state.
“By reinstating—neither expanding nor restricting—the longstanding legal framework for reproductive rights in this country, our bill would preserve abortion access along with basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement.
If all Democrats and the two Republican sponsors vote in favor, that makes 52 votes. It’s unclear if they could get eight more in order to hit the 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold to move the bill.
Sponsors said they were motivated in part by polling that shows a majority of Americans support abortion access. They pointed to a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 61% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. There is a large partisan gap in the findings: 80% of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters support abortion, compared to 38% of Republican or Republican-leaning voters.