The United States House of Representatives approved HR 3755, Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) on Friday, marking the first time the House has passed a law specifically designed to protect the right to access abortion across the country.
The WHPA specifies that access to abortion services is essential to health care and the ability of people to “participate equally in economic and social life in the United States.” The law recognizes the proliferation of abortion restrictions across the United States that have created a “patchwork system” of access to abortion services, and formally recognizes the systemic harm that the restrictions exacerbate to those likely to suffer. become pregnant, including the disproportionate effect on people of color and those living in low income situations.
The WHPA would ensure that a person seeking an abortion could benefit from a service free from stigmatizing limitations or “medically unnecessary” barriers. This includes a ban on state-imposed bans “at any time … prior to fetal viability”, limitations on the types of abortion services health care providers can provide, and requirements that patients “disclose. [their] reason or reasons for seeking an abortion.
The WHPA was approved as state restrictions on access to abortion continue to grow, and fears that the protections afforded in the historic case of Deer vs. Wade will be made moot. Battles are currently being fought against abortion restrictions in Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi on the application and legality of state laws restricting access to abortion. And the Supreme Court of the United States authorized a texas invoice that financially rewarded individuals who have declared that those seeking or performing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in the state are effective. The decision has been severely criticized as legalizing self-defense against those seeking an abortion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), alongside other pro-choice members of the House, spoke about the injustices people face due to restrictions on access to abortion and the importance of the moment. Pelosi said the choice to have an abortion is about “the freedom of women to choose the size and timing of their families, not the business of people on the ground or members of Congress.”
The law is now passing through the Senate, where it seems unlikely to be approved. The WHPA narrowly passed House 218-211, and it’s unclear whether the Moderate Democrats will vote with their party on this issue.