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Nancy Pelosi Calls to Eliminate Filibuster to Codify Roe , Kamala Harris Disagrees

·5 min read

House speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called for the elimination of the legislative filibuster “so that we can restore women’s fundamental rights” after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, though Vice President Kamala Harris said she would not endorse such a move.

Pelosi laid out several steps that Democrats should take in response to the Court’s decision, which returns the question of abortion to the states, in a “Dear Colleague” letter.

Pelosi wrote that the Democratic caucus has been “exploring avenues to protect the health and freedom of American women,” including legislation that “protects women’s most intimate and personal data stored in reproductive health apps” and “makes clear that Americans have the Constitutional right to travel freely and voluntarily throughout the United States.” She added that the House must once again pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to “enshrine Roe v. Wade in to the law of the land.” 

“It is clear from how Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stacked the Supreme Court that elections have ramifications,” Pelosi added. “It is essential that we protect and expand our pro-choice Majorities in the House and Senate in November so that we can eliminate the filibuster so that we can restore women’s fundamental rights — and freedom for every American.”

Meanwhile, CNN’s Dana Bash said she asked the vice president if she would support a carve-out from the filibuster to codify Roe, but Harris said she “wouldn’t go there” because Democrats do not have the votes.

The vice president told Bash in an interview on Monday that she “couldn’t believe” the Court “actually took a Constitutional right that has been recognized for half a century and took it from the women of America,” calling the decision “shocking.” 

Bash asked Harris if the Biden administration will actively challenge state laws that make it a crime to help a woman travel to another state for abortion. 

Harris noted that President Biden “indicated quite unambiguously that we will do everything within our power as an administration through the executive branch to ensure that women have access to the medication that they need” and that they will “have freedom of travel.”

She later added that if a woman is prescribed pills for a chemical abortion, she “should be able to have access to it unfettered.”

Asked if the attorney general can expand abortion services on federal land that is in and around states that ban abortion, Harris said that is not an option currently being discussed within the administration.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) reportedly told a Washington Post reporter that the Biden administration should establish Planned Parenthood outposts on the edges of national parks.

Harris on Monday said that “everybody has something at risk” now that the Court has overturned Roe and encouraged people who are parents to sons to “think about what this means for the life of your son and what this will mean in terms of the choices he will have.”

She continued: “Think about it in the context that they wrote this decision including a concurring opinion that suggests that other rights, such as the freedom to make decisions . . . about when you are going to start a family, the freedom and the right to make decisions about contraception, IUDs. What this is going to mean in terms of in-vitro fertilization.”

In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Court “should reconsider” its decisions in Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which established a right to contraception, privacy in the bedroom, and same-sex marriage, respectively.

Thomas’s reasoning was that the Court’s majority found that a right to abortion was not a form of “liberty” protected by the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. He said the Court therefore had a duty to “correct the error” in the other three precedents, which relied upon the same legal reasoning as Roe. He wrote that after “overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions” protected the rights established in the three cases.

Bash asked Harris if she believes the Supreme Court is on a path to reverse those three precedents as well.

“I definitely believe this is not over,” Harris replied. “I think he just said the quiet part out loud, and I think that this is why we all must really understand the significance of what just happened.”

Pelosi wrote in her “Dear Colleague” letter that legislation is being introduced to “further codify freedoms which Americans currently enjoy” and called Thomas’s concurrence “disturbing.”

Like Pelosi, Harris underscored the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm elections to “change the balance and have pro-choice legislators who have the power to make decisions about whether this constitutional right will be in law.”

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