Elizabeth Warren calls on Congress to legislate abortion rights in wake of Alabama law

"Our democracy should not be held hostage by right-wing courts, and women should not have to hope that Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will respect the law."

Elizabeth Warren says Congress should write the abortion protections set under Roe v. Wade into federal law — a needed defense, she argues, as state efforts to undo the landmark Supreme Court ruling “just might work.”

In a Medium post Thursday, the Massachusetts senator and 2020 Democratic presidential contender called on her fellow lawmakers to step up after the Alabama Legislature passed a near-outright ban on abortions earlier this week, paving the way for the country’s most extreme regulation in over four decades.

“Congress should pass new federal laws that protect access to reproductive care from right-wing ideologues in the states,” Warren wrote. “Federal laws that ensure real access to birth control and abortion care for all women. Federal laws that will stand no matter what the Supreme Court does.”

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In Alabama, the new law essentially bans abortions at all stages of pregnancy, including in cases of rape and incest. Performing an abortion will become a Class A felony — punishable by a life sentence or 10 to 99 years in prison — and attempting to perform an abortion will become a Class C felony, punishable by a prison sentence between one and 10 years. Exceptions are allowed in certain scenarios: when either the mother’s life is at risk; if the fetus’ condition would result in a stillbirth or death after birth; or “when a mental illness could lead to the woman’s death or that of her child,” The Montgomery Advertiser reports.

Warren notes a similar but not as severe bill is sitting before the Missouri Legislature. The proposal would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy but would not include exemptions for rape and incest victims.

Alabama officials say their law is designed to take on the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Its enforcement, however, will likely be delayed as the legal process around potential court challenges plays out.

But with a Supreme Court leaning further to the right under the Trump administration, Warren says the law has a chance to succeed.

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“Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t overrule Roe immediately, it could use these laws as an excuse to continue chipping away at this precedent,” the senator wrote. “That’s been happening for decades, and it’s already had a huge effect on access.”

Congress should, in turn, “parallel” the rights offered under Roe v. Wade by codifying them into federal law, Warren contends.

Doing so, she says, would also reflect public opinion. She cited a 2018 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that 71 percent of Americans believe the decision should not be overturned, including 52 percent of Republicans.

“These rights would have at least two key components,” Warren wrote. “First, they must prohibit states from interfering in the ability of a health care provider to provide medical care, including abortion services. Second, they must prohibit states from interfering in the ability of a patient to access medical care, including abortion services, from a provider that offers them.”

Warren also backed “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” a proposed bill that would block state laws known as “Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers,” or TRAP laws, that limit abortion access but “do not technically” violate Roe v. Wade, she said.

“These kinds of restrictions are medically-unnecessary and exist for only one purpose: to functionally eliminate the ability of women to access abortion services,” Warren wrote.

Other efforts should include expanding access to abortions by repealing the “Hyde Amendment,” the provision that prohibits abortion coverage in federally-funded health care programs, and passing the “EACH Woman Act” to remove restrictions imposed by private insurance companies, Warren said.

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“Our democracy should not be held hostage by right-wing courts, and women should not have to hope that Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will respect the law,” she said. “Congress should act to ensure that the will of the people remains the law of the land.”