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Cori Bush

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) listens during a news conference outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on May 10, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Reproductive Rights Coalition Tells Dems to 'Stop Defending the Filibuster in Our Name'

"While the filibuster has prevented passage of anti-abortion legislation in the past, we are under no illusion that clinging to the filibuster will protect us now."

Jessica Corbett

On the heels of Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin blocking federal abortion rights legislation, a reproductive freedom coalition on Thursday demanded that Democrats stop claiming they are defending women by keeping in place the filibuster.

"Again and again, the rotten structures of our democracy deny our federal legislature the ability to enact the will of the people."

The message from 40 reproductive rights, health, and justice groups came just a day after Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined with the GOP—again—to filibuster the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) in a vote that Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) teed up after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's draft majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization leaked last week.

"Most Americans support congressional action to guarantee abortion rights," said the coalition, which includes NARAL Pro-Choice America, Ultraviolet, and Whole Woman's Health. "Yet yesterday, the Senate was unable to pass legislation to protect access to abortion ahead of the Dobbs ruling. This calls us back to January when senators employed the filibuster to block critical voting rights legislation supported by the majority. Again and again, the rotten structures of our democracy deny our federal legislature the ability to enact the will of the people."

Amid a wave of GOP attacks on voting rights at the state level—similar to Republican state legislators' efforts to end reproductive freedom—congressional Democrats tried to pass various bills last year to fend off those attacks and make it easier to vote.

Backed by President Joe Biden, Schumer proposed weakening the filibuster just to pass the House-approved Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, but Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in January sided with the GOP to prevent that reform, tanking their own party's popular voting rights package.

"Now is the time to fight like hell and address the structural inequities that hold us back," the reproductive rights coalition asserted Thursday.

"Anti-democratic and anti-abortion actors are reaping the success of their coordinated, well-funded, and dangerous GOP-led strategy to deny people—primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, and all people of color, as well immigrants, young people, disabled people, the LGBTQI+ community, people with low incomes, and those living in rural and other medically underserved areas—their right to vote and access abortion," the groups said.

"We need to fill the seats of power with senators who will fight for abortion access and ensure they are empowered, procedurally, to pass critical abortion and voting rights legislation," the coalition continued. "That means putting every tool back on the table—including filibuster elimination."

After Alito's draft opinion was made public last week, both Manchin and Sinema—who are up for reelection in 2024 and this year, respectively—doubled down on their support for the filibuster.

Sinema said that she supports the WHPA and framed the filibuster as a safeguard "against the erosion of women's access to healthcare," pointing out that the 60-vote threshold has previously blocked congressional Republicans from advancing anti-choice measures.

The rights groups said Thursday that "while the filibuster has prevented passage of anti-abortion legislation in the past, we are under no illusion that clinging to the filibuster will protect us now."

"As leaders fighting for abortion access," the coalition concluded, "we join together to unequivocally state: Stop defending the filibuster in our name."

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