An attempt to enshrine women’s right to an abortion into law failed in a divided U.S. Senate on Wednesday, leaving the country potentially on the brink of that law being rolled back after nearly a half century.
All 50 Senate Republicans voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act, as the bill was called, joined by West Virginia obstructionist Democrat Joe Manchin. The bill was defeated by a final vote of 49-51.
Even if Manchin had voted with his party–which rarely happens on matters of significance–and Vice President Kamala Harris had cast a tie breaking vote, the measure likely wouldn’t have passed because of Senate rules requiring 60 out of the full 100 Senators to vote to break a filibuster–essentially a never-ending debate on the floor used by minority parties to kill a measure they don’t favor.
Democrats control the Senate because of Harris’ ability to break ties, but without an additional nine votes and an unwillingness by Democratic Senators to eliminate the filibuster, many critical pieces of legislation important to left-leaning voters never get passed.
The abortion measure was brought to the Senate floor quickly after last week, a draft opinion of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court showed that the Court was poised to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, a case famous for legalizing a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy nationwide.
Public opinion polling shows that the majority of Americans support that right, but the far right made it a goal to eliminate legal protections for abortion since Roe was decided. Many also fear that, based on the wording of the Court’s draft opinion, other rights such as same sex marriage and interracial marriage could also be eliminated by future Court decisions.