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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) participates in a news conference in the Capitol on June 16, 2021. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Jayapal Warns GOP Will Enact Federal Abortion Ban If It Retakes Congress

"We can't give them that chance," said the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "We must elect a REAL pro-choice majority in the Senate."

Kenny Stancil

With Republicans clamoring to impose a federal abortion ban if they gain control of Congress in November, Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington stressed Monday that more lawmakers committed to protecting reproductive freedom must be elected in the upcoming midterms to prevent such a deadly outcome.

"Let's be clear: Republicans WILL ban abortion nationwide if they take control of Congress," Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote on social media. "We can't give them that chance. We must elect a REAL pro-choice majority in the Senate."

Jayapal's warning came as Rep. Mike Kelly's (R-Pa.) proposal to outlaw abortion care nationwide picks up steam in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

By overturning nearly 50 years of precedent established by Roe v. Wade, the high court's reactionary majority eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.

Several GOP-controlled states cut off access to abortion care immediately after the decision was handed down on June 24, but a growing number of right-wing lawmakers and their allies are not content to have the procedure prohibited in roughly half the country and instead want to make forced pregnancy the law of the land.

Kelly first introduced his bill to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy more than a year ago, but since a draft of Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion in Dobbs was leaked in early May, 59 House Republicans have co-sponsored the legislation. "That more than doubled the number of backers it had garnered during the previous 15 months," according to WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR outlet.

"We see that as a major step forward toward this legislation gaining the momentum needed to pass the House of Representatives," Kelly's office told WESA.

As the outlet reported Tuesday:

The statement noted that the bill also has been adopted by the Republican Study Committee as part of its legislative agenda. The committee, whose 160 members include such conservative firebrands as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, says Republican leaders should "bring this bill to the floor for a vote by the whole House next year when Republicans return to the majority."

The Washington Post reported on May 2, the same day Alito's draft was leaked, that Republican senators have also had extensive discussions with leading anti-abortion groups about pursuing a federal six-week abortion ban.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signaled that Republicans could attempt to enact such legislation if they recapture Congress in November. New research published last week found that if the GOP were to succeed, maternal mortality in the U.S.—already the highest among rich nations—would increase by 24%.

Republicans would need to win control of 67 Senate seats this fall to be able to override President Joe Biden's likely veto of any federal abortion ban that reaches his desk. 

"But just because legislation is unlikely to pass in the immediate wake of the 2022 midterms, those races will still set the stage for bigger threats to abortion rights down the line," ABC News reported over the weekend. 

"Where we are today is more of a marathon than a sprint," Michele Goodwin, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told the outlet.

Survey data released both before and after Dobbs was issued indicates that a majority of U.S. voters would oppose a nationwide abortion ban. Regardless of popular sentiment, however, the risk remains if Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate as well as the White House.

"We must codify the right to abortion in this country," Jayapal said Tuesday.

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