Congress is unlikely to pass any legislation making changes to abortion this year, but that hasn’t stopped both sides from taking legislative steps aimed at energizing their core constituencies.
The House Appropriations Committee included a ban on abortion coverage in the new health insurance marketplaces in the fiscal 2014 financial services spending bill approved on July 17.
And the full chamber followed the lead of many states on June 18 by passing a ban on abortion 20 weeks or more after fertilization. The measure passed 228-196, with six Democrats supporting it and six Republicans opposing it. Supporters of limits on abortion immediately praised the action.
Even though the Senate has not scheduled action on the House-passed measure, Democratic senators have already held news conferences with abortion rights supporters declaring that they will never let the legislation pass in that chamber.
“We are here to make one thing abundantly clear, and that is that the extreme, unconstitutional abortion ban that passed the House just weeks ago, and which is being shopped around by the right wing for sponsors here in the Senate is a non-starter,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., standing beside Planned Parenthood officials. “Regardless of who introduces it, it’s going nowhere.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has taken a more muted approach. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 14, host David Gregory pressed Reid on whether it’s reasonable to consider a ban on abortion 20 weeks after fertilization.
Reid first demurred, talking about how hard it is to hold debates on other unrelated issues that both sides support when someone introduces an amendment on abortion or contraception. “I think we should deal with the problems that affect this country,” Reid said. “We need to do something to help the American working class and stop worrying about fringe issues.”
After Gregory continued to ask whether a 20-week ban is reasonable, Reid said, “I’m happy to take a look at this. I repeat, let’s do things that the vast majority of the American people think we should deal with.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.