How Congress could wield its power to affect abortion law nationally

As Democrats and Republicans react to the leaked Supreme Court draft on reproductive rights, we take a look at how a potential end of Roe is being navigated on Capitol Hill. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now, we take a look at how a potential undoing of Roe is viewed on Capitol Hill.

    To help us understand how lawmakers are preparing for any fallout, I'm joined by our congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins.

    Lisa, hello. So, you've been spending today looking at this. Does Congress have the ability in any way to affect abortion across the country?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Absolutely, it does. Congress makes the laws of this country. Congress could pass a law protecting what advocates call abortion rights, keeping abortion legal in this country. And, in fact, Democrats have been working on that.

    But let me kind of update people on where we are and what the problem is for Democrats who want to do that. First of all, if you look at what's been going on, Democrats in the House, which they control, of course, did pass a law in September, the Women's Health Protection Act, that would essentially codify Roe versus. Wade, essentially say that abortion is legal in this country.

    However, that has to go to the Senate, where it needs 60 votes. As our viewers well now, the Senate did take a test vote on that concept in February. Just 48 votes supported that bill.

    Notably, among them, not every Democrat expressed support for it. Joe Manchin, senator from West Virginia, was a no vote. Watching Joe Manchin now, he is speaking about this today, he is someone who has said he supports women's rights in general, women's health rights, but he felt that bill went too far. So, there is some discussion whether he and another senator, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who also had some discomfort with that original bill, whether they could get on board when there is a bill that might get their support.

    Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine, and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who also support legal abortion, they have a bill that they are floating. And Senator Collins told me today, she thinks Joe Manchin will get on board.

    That is a lot of explanation to say there is a bill that perhaps could get 52 votes in the Senate to keep abortion legal in this country in every state. But I don't see any way that it could get 60 at this time. You have to change the filibuster, there are not the votes to do that. Joe Manchin said today he would not do that over abortion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, even if you got Senator Manchin's vote, you're saying we don't — we are still not at 60.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Because Senator Manchin is not willing to break the filibuster.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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