Senators Collins and Murkowski Introduce Bill to Codify Supreme Court Decisions on Reproductive Rights: Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey

In contrast to the sweeping Women’s Health Protection Act, the Reproductive Choice Act would simply codify Roe, Casey protections; Senators will also file the bill as a substitute amendment to the WHPA

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation today that would codify the abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade (1973) and affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The Senators will also file their bill, titled the Reproductive Choice Act (RCA), as an amendment to the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which the Senate will attempt to take up this evening.

“I support the abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and affirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey.  Our legislation would enshrine these important protections into law without undercutting statutes that have been in place for decades and provide basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections to performing abortions,” said Senator Collins

“I have always supported a woman’s right to choose, the precedents established by Roe v. Wade, and the limitations the Supreme Court has placed on laws regarding abortion services. With the Supreme Court set to rule on an abortion-related case later this year, we should codify current protections into law so that women can be confident their reproductive freedoms will not be abruptly reduced or eliminated,” Senator Murkowski said.  “I have long supported a woman’s right to choose, but my position is not without limits, and this partisan Women’s Health Protection Act simply goes too far. It would broadly supersede state laws and infringe on Americans’ religious freedoms. The fact that my choice is between this bill, or nothing at all, shows how insincere Majority Leader Schumer is about protecting women’s rights. Failing to conduct any outreach and reducing this important issue to nothing more than a designed-to-fail show vote is a disservice to women across America.”

The WHPA, by contrast, goes far beyond what is necessary to codify the abortion rights in Roe and Casey.  For example:

  • The WHPA would supersede all other federal and state laws, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which both Senators Collins and Murkowski support because it provides critical protections for religious liberties.  Congress has never before adopted legislation that contains an exemption to this religious liberty law, which was authored by Majority Leader Schumer when he served in the House and passed by overwhelming, bipartisan margins in 1993.  
  • The WHPA’s overly broad language far exceeds Roe by striking down state laws such as those that require certain materials to be given to the patient, prohibit sex-based abortions, or require parental or guardian notification for minors seeking an abortion.

By contrast, the RCA closely tracks the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey and would provide reassurance to women that the reproductive rights they have relied on for nearly 50 years will continue to be the law of the land.  It does not include any of the extraneous and over-reaching provisions in WHPA.  In particular, the RCA:

  • Would prohibit states from imposing an “undue burden” on the ability of a woman to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability;
  • Would continue to allow states to enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy, while clarifying that unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a “substantial obstacle” to a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy constitute an “undue burden”;
  • Would  continue to permit states to restrict the ability to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability, except when necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman as consistent with Roe and Casey; and
  • Would not have any effect on laws regarding conscience protections, including laws that protect health care providers who refuse to provide abortions for moral or religious reasons.

Click HERE for the text of Senators Collins and Murkowski’s bill.