Answer: The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) codifies abortion rights into law.
WHPA provides protections for pregnant people seeking an abortion and medical professionals who provide abortions. The law would effectively eliminate any medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion such as mandatory counseling, ultrasounds, birth certificates and fetal remain burials. The WHPA was originally introduced to congress in 2013 but with a republican led House and Senate, the bill gained little traction. Since then, WHPA has been re-introduced to Congress in 2017 and 2019 but the bill gained unprecedented traction in 2021, with 176 original co-signers signaling their support.
Why is WHPA seeing unprecedented support?
The NWHN posits this is in direct response to the wave of anti-abortion legislation sweeping through the United States. 2021 is on track to become the most hostile year for abortion rights since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 561 anti-abortion laws have been passed since January and 83 of those restrictions have been enacted in 16 different states.
For context, 1,313 anti-abortion bills have been passed since Roe v. Wade and 566 have been passed since 2011. Despite maintaining a majority in the House and gaining a narrow majority in the Senate, Democrats suffered major losses in local elections in 2020. Republican-leaning state legislatures intend on gutting or completely overturning Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights advocates are concerned that this will become an achievable goal with conservatives maintaining a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made headlines in the spring when it decided to review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization - a case that questions the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Since federal law trumps state law, the Women’s Health Protection Act would counteract medically unnecessary restrictions and all-out bans on abortion and would protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court overturns Roe.
Who is most affected by WHPA?
Abortion restrictions disproportionately affect low-income women of color and immigrant women. A majority of anti-abortion restrictions are being passed in the south and over half of all Black Americans live in southern states. Many Black and Brown communities in rural America have experienced permanent hospital closures during the pandemic, limiting their access to abortion care. Meanwhile, wealthy individuals will always have access to abortion care, even if they reside in states hostile to abortion, because they have the resources to obtain an abortion elsewhere.
What can you do to help?
The NWHN implores the Senate to protect abortion rights and pass the WHPA. The WHPA needs 60 votes to pass in the senate so please call your state’s senator and urge them to support WHPA. If, however, WHPA fails to pass, the fight to protect abortion rights does not end. To pass a bill like WHPA, we need more pro-choice champions in the House and Senate. State and local elections matter now more than ever, so if you want to make change, stay tuned in and make your voice heard in local races.