Nearly all Senate Democrats voted in favor of a bill that would allow doctors nationwide to terminate fetuses nine months into a pregnancy.
The Senate on Monday failed to advance the most pro-abortion bill in history, the Women's Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade to repeal all abortion restrictions across the nation. The bill states that doctors could abort babies at any point in a pregnancy if they determine a continuation "would pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health."
The bill was never expected to pass the 60-vote threshold to advance to a vote, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) faced pressure from pro-abortion activists and more liberal members of his caucus to move the legislation forward. Schumer said he scheduled a vote in response to Republican efforts at the state level to restrict abortion access, which he called a "downright dangerous domino effect attack on women's reproductive rights."
"We are here to throw cold water on the flames of anti-women bigotry and affirm five sacred words: Abortion is a fundamental right," Schumer said last week.
The final vote to advance the bill was 46 to 48, with Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) as the lone Democrat to vote in opposition. The bill passed in the House in September with support from all but one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas).
The vote comes as the Supreme Court considers a case that pro-life advocates anticipate will put an end to Roe, which would allow states to ban abortion prior to the current legal threshold of fetal viability, which is roughly 24 weeks. States passed an all-time high of abortion restrictions in 2021, and some have advanced abortion bans this year in anticipation of a Roe overhaul in the coming months.
Ahead of the vote Monday, Democratic senator Tina Smith (Minn.) said "the reality is we can no longer rely on the courts to protect" abortion access, calling it a "human right."
Texas enacted a heartbeat law last year through a legal loophole that allows citizens to sue doctors who perform abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy. The law has led to a 60 percent drop in abortions.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, expressed frustration that Manchin was the only Democrat to vote in opposition to the bill. The most disappointing "yea" vote, she said, was Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who has described himself in the past as pro-life and is the son of former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr., who took Planned Parenthood to the Supreme Court over abortion restrictions. She said Democrats' push for abortion on demand will hurt the party in competitive seats come Election Day.
"This vote is a gift to Republicans who can utilize this extreme measure in the 2022 midterms," Day told the Washington Free Beacon. "With a majority of the nation opposing abortion extremism, this vote will be detrimental."
A majority of Americans oppose abortion access in the second and third trimesters, according to an Associated Press poll published last year. The United States is one of eight countries that allow abortions past 20 weeks—a list that includes China and North Korea. Only 3 of Europe's 50 countries allow abortion past 15 weeks, which is the cutoff debated in the Supreme Court over Mississippi's ban.
Pro-life leaders said Schumer's decision to hold a vote despite the bill's inevitable demise has only one explanation.
"This bill is obviously designed by pro-abortion politicians to appease the abortion lobby," March for Life president Jeanne Mancini said.