On Friday, September 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA)—a major step forward in protecting abortion access on a national level. WHPA cements the right for people across the U.S. to access abortion and enables healthcare providers to provide abortion without bans or other medically unnecessary restrictions. The bill passed by a 218-211 vote.
2021 has been the most devastating year on record for reproductive health and rights since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973. In fact, states have introduced 600 abortion restrictions this year alone, and 90 of those restrictions have passed. Unfortunately, the harm of these restrictions is not felt equally: well-off people will always be able to travel out-of-state to access abortion care, but Black and brown people, low-income people, young people, and the LGBTQ+ community disproportionately experience the effects of restrictive reproductive health legislation.
The House passage of WHPA comes at a tenuous time for access to abortion following the implementation of Texas’s extreme abortion law, which bans access to abortion after six weeks. The Texas law, S.B. 8, also allows anyone in the U.S. to sue Texas abortion providers and those who aid and abet patients in receiving an abortion. The impacts of Texas’s law are already being felt by patients, who are now forced to travel, if they are able, to neighboring states such as New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas to receive the care they need.
The passage of WHPA also comes ahead of the Supreme Court’s consideration this fall of a case concerning a Mississippi abortion law that will serve as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. This case marks the first time that the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of pre-viability abortion bans since the passage of Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court’s lack of action against S.B. 8, an undoubtedly unconstitutional law, is a disquieting indication for the future of abortion access and comprehensive reproductive health, rights, and justice in the U.S.
Advocates and leaders in the fields of reproductive health, rights, and justice have been working tirelessly to pass protective legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was first introduced in 2013. Population Institute is part of a coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to the passage of WHPA.
Population Institute’s President and CEO Kathleen Mogelgaard said of the recent House bill: “For too long, states have been restricting access to abortion care. Right now, abortion is a right in name only for far too many Americans. The House passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act is an important step in ensuring that no matter where you live, you are able to access affordable abortion care. The fight now moves on to the Senate, and we will not stop fighting until full bodily autonomy is the reality for all.”