When the Supreme Court ruled on abortion last June, overturning Roe v. Wade, Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy said, “Our work is far from done.” However, he didn’t say what might come next.”
A year later, McCarthy is Speaker of the House, Republicans are in the majority, and the blanks are beginning to be filled in.
In a whirl of little-noticed legislative action, Republican lawmakers are pushing changes to abortion policy and working to build on the work of activists whose strategy successfully raised their fight to the nation’s highest court.
In one piece of government funding legislation after another, members of the GOP are incorporating unrelated policy provisions, known as riders, to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Democrats say the proposals won’t ever become law.
“This is not just about an attack on women’s health,” said Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, top Democrat on the House Appropriation Committee Friday. “I view it as an attempt to derail the entire process of funding the federal government by injecting these riders into the appropriations process.”
During a hearing this past week, Texas GOP Representative Kay Granger heads the committee, said that the riders included continuing “long-standing pro-life protections that are important to our side of the aisle.”
Similarly, using budget bills is hardly new; however, it points to a broader divide among the GOP about where to go next on abortion after the decision by the Supreme Court cleared the way for state-by-state restrictions on abortion rights.
For years, Republicans held stand-along votes in the House on bills to restrict abortion. Now, some in the party — specifically the almost 20 Republicans running for reelection in swing districts — are uncertain about rolling calls on proposals on abortion. They say such bills won’t see the light of day with Democrats controlling the Senate.
The new push by the GOP is taking place line-by-line in the wide-reaching legislation drafted each year to fund government programs and agencies.
Several anti-abortion proposals included in budget bills
Almost a dozen anti-abortion proposals have so far been included in budget bills. For example, in the agricultural one, Republicans are looking to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s recent move that would allow the contraceptive pill mifepristone to be dispensed in certified pharmacies instead of only in clinics and hospitals.
Anti-abortion proposals have made their way into the defense bill, where Republican lawmakers aim to ban travel and paid leave for military service members and their family members seeking reproductive health care services. Representative Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, warned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about it.
“I told them that was going to be a poison pill when it came to getting their legislation done over here,” said GOP Rogers of Alabama. “I told him, you know, you’re asking for trouble.
And now they got trouble.”
There are additional riders in the financial services bill, where the GOP want to prohibit federal and local money from being used to carry out District of Columbia law that bans discrimination over employees’ reproduction decisions.
“It seems like they can’t do anything without trying to put something in there to restrict abortion rights,” said Democrat Representative Suzan DelBene of Washington state, chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “I don’t think the public is fooled by that, and absolutely, this will be a critical issue in the next election.
DelBene said she and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are working to target the vulnerable Republicans on the issue before the 2024 election.