(NPR) – The Women’s Health Protection Act, a Democrat-led bill that would effectively codify a right to an abortion, failed to pass, as expected, after it did not reach the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. All Democrats voted for the legislation except Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and all Republicans opposed the bill.
In a rare occurrence, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote, which was 49-51.
Within minutes of the vote, President Joe Biden released a statement that “this failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack – and it runs counter to the will of the majority of American people.”
“We will continue to defend women’s constitutional rights to make private reproductive choices as recognized in Roe v. Wade nearly half a century ago, and my Administration will continue to explore the measures and tools at our disposal to do just that,” Biden said, without providing details.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week the Senate would be a vote on the bill after a leaked draft opinion from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito revealed that the court is likely to overturn the 50-year-old protections of abortion rights granted under the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
Because it was never likely to pass, the vote was effectively symbolic. “I think it’s really important to have this vote to show where everyone stands,” Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told NPR on Tuesday.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments over the weekend that Republicans might try to move legislatively on a nationwide abortion ban also upped the stakes for Democrats.