Speaker Pelosi promises new legislation to ‘codify Roe v. Wade’ at Austin event

U.S. and World

AUSTIN (KXAN) — During a visit Thursday afternoon to Austin, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers will bring forward legislation to enshrine protections outlined in a landmark Supreme Court case after the strictest abortion law in the country went into effect in Texas.

“When we go back to Washington, we will be putting Roe v. Wade codification on the floor of the House to make sure that women everywhere have access to the reproductive health that they need,” Pelosi said.

She joined U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler for a joint news conference to tout proposals within the Build Back Better Act that would expand health care access to people. However, questions about Texas’ new fetal heartbeat bill dominated her remarks when reporters asked questions about the contentious changes brought by the law.

“To codify Roe v. Wade would make a tremendous, tremendous difference, and that is where our focus will be,” Pelosi said.

The Texas law, which went into effect Wednesday, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect fetal cardiac activity, which usually happens around six weeks into a pregnancy. It also allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids and abets” in an abortion, other than the patient. 

Pelosi expressed concern that other states would soon work to adopt laws incorporating the private litigation aspect of Texas’ law — a legal workaround that she called “clever [but] very, very dangerous.”

“We expect to see copycats, and that’s why it’s necessary to have a national law passed of Roe v. Wade, protecting women’s rights wherever they live across the country, whatever their economic status is,” Pelosi said.

In a narrow 5-4 decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of the law. This allowed the abortion restrictions to stay in place and take effect in the state.

During the news conference Thursday, Rep. Doggett criticized the justices backing the legislation, calling their split decision a “disgrace of this court and the injustice to women all over the country.”

When the bill went into effect Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign account posted a tweet with a graphic that read, “Every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion.”

Pelosi did not share detailed information Thursday about what language the potential legislation would include or when exactly it would be introduced. She also signaled her support to the statement that President Joe Biden released that called for a “whole-of-government effort” to identify ways “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as provided by Roe.”

She also asked people to contact their representatives to share their discontent about this new Texas law and push them to pass federal legislation addressing it.

“Right now people do know the danger reproductive health is in, and we’re talking about termination of a pregnancy here,” Pelosi said. “Understand this: in the Congress, Republicans have been opposed to contraception, family planning [and] anything that would minimize the need for somebody to make such a decision.”

Ahead of Pelosi’s visit to Austin, the Republican National Committee released a statement criticizing the focus of her trip.

“It’s inappropriate and insensitive for Nancy Pelosi to be promoting the Democrat’s agenda when Americans are still stranded in Afghanistan,” Macarena Martinez, an RNC spokesperson, said. “Pelosi should get back to Washington D.C., convene Congress, and demand answers for Biden’s failed withdrawal in Afghanistan.”

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