US Senate Democrats push abortion-rights vote, expected to fail

WASHINGTON: Democrats in the US Senate plan were pushing ahead with plans to force a vote on Wednesday (May 11) on legislation codifying women’s rights to abortion nationwide, a protest gesture almost certain to fail ahead of an expected Supreme Court decision to end those protections.

Most Senate Republicans oppose abortion and Democrats’ razor-thin majority will not be enough to overcome the chamber’s rules requiring 60 of the 100 members to agree to advance most legislation. But Democrats are hoping the vote will bolster their chances of holding or even picking up seats in the Nov 8 midterm elections.

“The vote to protect abortion rights will shine like a floodlight on every member of this chamber,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

With the vote nearing, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin intends to oppose the legislation, CNN reported. A Manchin spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Even if Manchin did support the “Women’s Health Protection Act” it was not expected to succeed in the deeply divided Senate.

Meanwhile, closed-door talks were continuing over a possible compromise abortion-rights Bill, although it was unclear whether Democratic and Republican negotiators would be able to lure the 60 votes needed for any such measure.

America’s decades-old battle over abortion rights exploded anew last week when the Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of a draft opinion that signaled it will soon overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Opinion polls have shown the right to abortion to be broadly popular. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week found 63 per cent of respondents, including 78 per cent of Democrats and 49 per cent of Republicans, would be more likely to back candidates in November’s elections who support abortion rights.

At least 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if the top court strikes down Roe, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for sexual and reproductive health rights.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told USA Today last week it was “possible” that a Republican-controlled Senate could seek legislation restricting abortion nationwide in a post-Roe v Wade world.

Amid widespread media coverage of that statement, McConnell noted during a Tuesday press conference that neither Democrats nor Republicans would be likely to secure the 60 votes needed to move abortion legislation through the Senate.

“This issue will be dealt with at the state level,” McConnell said.

Last September, the House of Representatives voted 218-211 to pass an abortion rights Bill nearly identical to the Senate Bill up for a vote on Wednesday.

Some Democrats believe that a move to overturn Roe could help them in November by energising their voters and turning more women to their side.

Republicans are counting on inflation, which has jacked up prices on gasoline, food and many other consumer goods, to help them secure a victory that would rein in Democratic President Joe Biden during the second half of his first term in office.