EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Regional lawmakers are responding to the passage of a federal bill that would protect women in Texas from state laws prohibiting access to reproductive health care, specifically abortion.

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) that Democrats say is paramount to preserve abortion rights.

“Abortion is health care and a constitutional right,” tweeted Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16). 

“The Women’s Health Protection Act enshrines the constitutional right to reproductive health care into law and protects women against extreme and dangerous bans like Texas’ SB 8,” the tweet continued.

The WHPA would guarantee abortion access for women despite state laws like SB 8 that prohibits abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy.

The White House endorsed the WHPA earlier this week, with President Biden’s Office of Management and Budget stating “it has never been more important to codify this constitutional right and strengthen health care access for all women, regardless of where they live.”

The WHPA would concretize a nationwide right to abortion by preserving the legal guarantees under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that upheld the right to abortion in 1992.

The bill would prohibit federal and state governments from enacting or enforcing any laws, standards, rules, or other provisions that conflict with any of the WHPA’s provisions. 

The vote in the House comes as Governor Greg Abbott is set to sign a bill to limit the use of medication abortion after seven weeks and prohibit sending such pills through the mail altogether.

Republicans say Senate Bill 4 (SB4) would protect women’s health, arguing that in-person ultrasounds will ensure doctors can monitor patients more effectively.

The WHPA must be passed in both the House and the Senate to be signed into law, and needs 60 votes to pass in the Senate. 

U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (NM-01) voted in favor of the bill on Friday. 

“Reproductive justice is a human rights and a social justice issue. The ability of individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and access health care is fundamental to their self-determination and well-being. I am proud to cosponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act and was proud to vote to pass it out of the House today,” she said.

Republicans protested the bill before the vote and argued it extends beyond the Roe ruling. The GOP members also said the WHPA will strip states of the ability to regulate abortion and would prevent states from introducing measures to make abortions safer, or lead to late term abortions.

“The legislation before us is perhaps the most extreme abortion measure that Congress has ever considered,” said Rep. Julia Letlow (LA-05). “It will overturn countless protections for the unborn that states have already put into place.”

The passage of the WHPA comes as states have passed more than 90 laws to restrict abortion access in 2021. New Mexico is one of only a handful of states that has taken steps in 2021 to preserve women’s reproductive rights.

“Across the country we are seeing increasing attacks on our bodies, our autonomy, and our health care systems. In New Mexico, we’re already feeling the effects of Texas’s unconstitutional abortion ban, as increasing numbers of individuals are seeking care in our state,” said Stansbury. “We must act at a national level to ensure that essential reproductive health care services can be made available in all communities and that individuals and health care providers cannot be criminalized for exercising their rights.”  

For more information on SB8, click here; for our complete coverage of politics, click here.

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