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Nancy Pelosi and Joe BidenPhoto by Win McNamee/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (LifeSiteNews) — Driven by fears that the Supreme Court may be on the verge of overturning the landmark pro-abortion ruling Roe v. Wade, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 218-211 Friday to pass legislation that would enshrine abortion on demand in federal law. 

In December, the nation’s highest court will begin hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns Mississippi’s HB 1510 law banning abortions from being committed past 15 weeks for any reason other than physical medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. Abortion defenders argue it violates the judicially-created “right” to pre-viability abortions; pro-lifers hope the case will finally lead to the reversal of Roe.

In May, House Democrats reintroduced the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), purportedly to prepare for such a future, though it would go much further than granting the tenets of Roe statutory legitimacy.

The legislation, which has been repeatedly introduced over the past several years without being acted upon, establishes a federal statutory right to perform and obtain abortions, including after fetal viability (under the broad cover of “health”), and specifically forbids states from subjecting abortion to ultrasound requirements, mandatory waiting periods, informed-consent requirements, and other health and safety regulations, such as admitting privileges.

The WHPA also protects so-called “webcam” abortions (i.e., dispensing abortion pills without an in-person doctor’s visit), forbids banning abortions on the basis of a baby’s race, sex, or disability, and forbids banning particular techniques such as dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedures, better known as “dismemberment” abortions because they entail literally ripping unborn babies apart in the womb, then removing them from the uterus limb by limb.

Earlier in September, Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi framed the measure as a response to the Texas Heartbeat Act, as well, which forbids abortions on the basis of a detectable fetal heartbeat, and, thanks to its unique enforcement mechanism of private civil suits against violators, has yet to be blocked by the courts. 

“S.B. 8 delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities,” Pelosi declared, calling it “the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade.”

“What the Democrats are bringing before us, it’s really a radical bill,” Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said this week. “It goes beyond Roe v. Wade. It allows abortion on demand up until birth. It shows how far left Democrats have become. Regardless of how you feel about the situation, that is not the place I believe Americans are at. But they are going to spend their time pushing that onto the floor.”

While President Joe Biden is in favor of codifying Roe, and today’s vote is sure to please the Democrats’ pro-abortion base, practically the WHPA is not expected to become law anytime soon. The bill currently has 47 co-sponsors in the evenly-divided Senate, and would need at least ten Republicans to join every Democrat to pass under current rules. Abolishing the legislative filibuster would enable the bill to pass with a simple majority, but Democrat Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, and Joe Machin of West Virginia, are not in favor of going that far, to the frustration of left-wing activists.

That means that, for now, the future of abortion law remains in the Supreme Court’s hands. Many pro-lifers see the upcoming Mississippi case as the greatest test yet of the current justices, a majority of whom were appointed by Republican presidents yet have still disappointed pro-lifers and conservatives on various occasions. 

Only Justice Clarence Thomas is explicitly on the record as anti-Roe, and only he and Justice Samuel Alito have established consistently conservative records over a significant period of time. While those two joined with former President Donald Trump’s three appointees to form a majority willing to let the Texas law temporarily stand on procedural grounds, the latter have disappointed conservatives in other cases, so how they will rule on the substance of abortion law remains to be seen.