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The nation’s largest union of registered nurses has sent a letter to senators in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act.
The act would codify the federal right to an abortion.
To pass the act, the union also calls for a suspension of the Senate filibuster.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion, the nation’s largest nursing union is calling on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA).
The National Nurses United (NNU) urged the Senate in a letter Tuesday to pass the bill and “take a stand for reproductive health justice.” The WHPA would codify the federal right to access abortion and other protections established by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that the Supreme Court reversed in June.
NNU also called for a suspension of the “archaic and anti-democratic” Senate filibuster rule to ensure the legislation could be voted on without delay.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Ninety percent of nurses in the United States are female, and in their letter, the organization stressed the importance of recognizing abortion as an essential part of health care.
“A patient’s right to control their own body is at the very basis of a free and just society,” the letter reads. “Lives hang in the balance.”
The Supreme Court established in Roe v. Wade that Americans have a constitutional right to access abortion. In its ruling on June 24, 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court rescinded abortion protection under federal law, meaning individual states are now free to curtail access to the service — reversing almost 50 years of precedent.
“As nurses, we have a duty to advocate for our patients and their right to make their own health care decisions,” the letter reads. “The basic tenets of ethical health care dictate that patients should enjoy autonomy, self-determination, and dignity over their bodies, their lives, and the health care they receive.”
WHPA was first introduced in 2021, and its text protects the right to choose whether to end or continue a pregnancy. It also calls for protection for any health care professionals who may provide abortion services.
Abortion is a safe procedure when carried out in a regulated environment. However, when access to abortion services is restricted, risks associated with the procedure increase, as women may self-inflict bodily or abdominal trauma to end the pregnancy or ingest dangerous chemicals. Currently, a woman in the United States is 14 times more likely to die from childbirth complications than to die from an abortion.
“Access to quality reproductive health care allows people to make decisions for themselves whether and when to have children, a choice that is essential for full participation in our society,” the NNU letter states, noting reproductive health services are fundamental to ensuring economic justice for women.