House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing legislation that would legalize abortion without limitations nationwide and overturn hundreds of state abortion restrictions, including Texas’ new fetal heartbeat ban.
Pelosi made the remarks hours after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, refused to block the Texas law, which arguably is the most significant pro-life law since the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Pelosi said it is the “most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century.”
The Texas bill bans abortion procedures if medical workers have “detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child,” but it provides exemptions related to medical emergencies. It also allows individuals to file civil lawsuits against anyone who provides abortions or “aids or abets” abortions after a heartbeat is detected.
The Texas law was based on a strategy long used by Democrats in California and other states to implement their own legislative agendas. It puts Democrats in an awkward position of complaining about a technique they have long used.
“This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.”
The act, if passed, would codify Roe v. Wade into law, guaranteeing legalized abortion even if the Supreme Court were to overturn the landmark decision. Under the bill, abortion laws and regulations are illegal if they “do not significantly advance reproductive health or the safety of abortion services.”
For a law to be legal, it cannot “make abortion services more difficult to access,” the bill says. Further, the bill says, abortion laws and regulations cannot single out abortion services with restrictions “that are more burdensome than those restrictions imposed on medically comparable procedures.”
Further, the text of the law prohibits state officials from enforcing the law. Instead, it allows a citizen to sue anyone who performs or induces an abortion or knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion. The law allows civil damages of at least $10,000 for each suit.
“This provision is a cynical, backdoor attempt by partisan lawmakers to evade the Constitution and the law to destroy not only a woman’s right to health care but potentially any right or protection that partisan lawmakers target,” Pelosi said.
The move by Pelosi is expected to further galvanize the pro-life movement which is already growing across the country.
“You will see that the social conservative wing of the Republican party and the pro-life advocates engage like you couldn’t believe on this issue,” said Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Pelosi, earlier this year, declined to directly answer whether she thought “an unborn baby at 15 weeks is a human being,” and instated stated that she is a mother and a “big supporter of Roe v. Wade.”
The House is scheduled to return to floor activity on Sept. 20.