All we want is to restore Roe! shouted Democrats after the Supreme Court struck it down in Dobbs. All right, said Susan Collins, along with Lisa Murkowski, Kyrsten Sinema, and Tim Kaine. They floated a bill that would create a federal law guaranteeing the status quo ante access to abortion, along with the status quo ante areas in which states can regulate it. Collins explained the bill on Monday:
The Reproductive Freedom For All Act protects the ability of women to make health care choices for themselves. It would:
- Prohibit state regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman’s access to pre-viability abortions, while allowing states to enact reasonable restrictions on post-viability abortions – provided that states cannot ban abortions that are necessary to protect the life or health of the mother;
- Protect access to contraceptives; and
- Preserve conscience protections.
That’s precisely where the law stood under Roe and Casey prior to June. And that’s just not good enough, declared Elizabeth Warren late Tuesday evening:
Senator Elizabeth Warren told NBC News Tuesday night that she will not vote for a newly-introduced bipartisan bill that would enshrine federal abortion protections after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a tough blow to the nascent effort that shows it would lack the crucial support of all 50 Democratic senators.
“The Kaine-Collins bill does not codify Roe,” she said plainly, saying “no” she wouldn’t vote for it. Pressed on if this was a question of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good on this, she said “the problem here is this bill is not an obvious improvement over where we stand right now.”
Warren has been a leading agitator for action on the reproductive rights front, prior to and certainly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, pressing the administration to do more and urging action on data privacy protections, among other things.
So much for laying a trap for Republicans. Warren apparently didn’t get the memo or just didn’t care much about the strategy, but this bill was going to be used as bait to split the Senate Republicans, or at least shame them as an attempt to paint them as extreme. It would have had the added benefit of offering a distraction from the economy, at least theoretically.
Instead, Warren has essentially flipped the “extreme” label onto Democrats. She is one big reason Chuck Schumer went with the full-out unlimited-abortion-access proposal in early May after the Dobbs leak that would have expanded access far past Roe or Casey. It also would have eliminated every state limitation on abortion as well as conscience objections for providers. It was a radical bill in every direction, and it’s what Warren still wants. And she won’t be alone, either.
When this bill fails on a cloture motion, and it clearly will, the media will want to paint this as Republican obstructionism. Warren’s opposition tells a much different story about the reasonableness of both caucuses in the Senate. And maybe that’s the story Susan Collins wanted to tell all along.