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Democrats Could Save Roe v. Wade Today

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The Democratic Party is up in arms about the leaked draft memo from the Supreme Court which states clearly that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. It’s a vicious attack on the fundamental rights of millions of people in this country so that makes sense, but it’s all a little rich coming from the exact people who have failed to protect abortion rights for decades, instead choosing to use it as a get out the vote tool while simultaneously doing nothing to enshrine abortion rights into law.

That is exactly what Democrats are poised to do again. Democrats have a majority in the Senate and at any moment could choose to get rid of the filibuster. They could simply choose to suspend the filibuster temporarily. This would allow a 50 vote threshold on legislation to protect the legal right to abortion. Democrats have long campaigned on codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law, to protect against this exact possibility. Now that the fundamental red line that is Roe has all but been crossed it’s time to throw procedural niceties to the side and do what has to be done to protect the right to an abortion (and all the other rights protected by the right to privacy.) 

Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema Love the Filibuster

Democrats could save all of it right now, but Senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have already signaled they are opposed to doing so. It’s fair to blame the leadership of the Democratic Party for allowing Manchin and Sinema to play the role they have and for totally abdicating the responsibility to pressure them into compliance to Bernie Sanders. This gave Bernie Sanders a very public platform to campaign for Build Back Better but it also gave “the moderates” the cover they needed to kill the bill without any presidential pushback. They are doing exactly the same thing on abotion rights. 

In fact, they’re doing just that, though it must be said this time it appears they have presidential approval. Calls for Democrats to codify Roe started as soon as the draft opinion overturning it was leaked. In response Joe Manchin was asked if he would support overturning the filibuster in order to protect abortion. In response Joe Manchin declared “the filibuster is the only protection we have in democracy,” and that “we’ve protected women’s rights with the filibuster.” Kyrsten Sinema matched this call pointing to “half a dozen” moments she says the filibuster actually protected abortion rights. Which might be technically accurate, but doesn’t speak to the political reality on the ground right now. Abortion rights are going to be overturned and there is only one way to save them, but the Democrats refuse to act. 

It would be easy to put this on Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema but Joe Biden matched their hesitancy to do away with the filibuster. Specifically Biden said he was “not prepared” to do away with the procedural hurdle to protect abortion rights. That’s because again they plan on campaigning on saving Roe. Just a few more Democratic Senators and it’ll be saved. Just a few more dollars, just a few more hours, and finally abortion will be protected. Democrats are already campaigning on this as though they have no agency. As though it’s totally legitimate to let two Senators kill any chance at filibuster reform. Without so much as holding them to a vote and making it clear who is preventing abortion from being saved, it’s political malpractice.

Democrats could save Roe right now. They won’t though. And they’ll act shock when the parade of horribles inevitably follows the official repeal. They’ll still campaign like they’re not responsible, but when push comes to shove and people can no longer access abortion it’s important to remember who all played a role in this reality. And right now, in this moment, with their refusal to do away with the filibuster, the Democrats are on the side of ending abortion protections.

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