The initiative was doomed to failure but wanted to mark the occasion. At a time when the right to abortion is strongly threatened by a decision to come from the Supreme Court, the American Senate failed, Wednesday, May 11, to adopt a law guaranteeing its access throughout the country.
This vote was above all symbolic, the Democrats not having the sixty votes out of a hundred necessary to move forward on this text. But it is part of a larger fight by progressives to try to protect the right to abortion.
Around 3 p.m. local time (9 p.m. in Paris), the hundred senators of the American Congress voted to guarantee, or not, the right to abortion across the United States. “Today’s vote is one of the most important in the coming decades”said, shortly before the vote, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
“Because for the first time in fifty years, a conservative majority, an extreme majority of the Supreme Court is about to decree that women have no control over their own bodies”, he had alerted, in the hemicycle, the serious tone. The Republicans were opposed to this initiative as a whole, accusing the Democrats, through their leader Mitch McConnell, of wanting, with this text, to propose “abortions on demand”.
A vote result castigated by Joe Biden
In the end, 49 senators voted for the text and 51 against, the Democrat Joe Manchin, already gravedigger of several major Joe Biden projects, rallying to the Republican opposition.
The US president blasted the outcome of the vote in a statement.
Republicans in Congress — none of whom voted for the bill — have chosen to oppose the right of American women to make the most personal decisions about their bodies, families, and lives.
Joe Biden’s party had wanted to organize this vote after the extraordinary leak, on May 2, of a draft decision from the Supreme Court, according to which the American temple of law was preparing to cancel access to the abortion.
If the Supreme Court were to overturn the case law that has founded the right to abortion in the United States since 1973, as the revelation of a draft judgment suggested this week, each State would be free to prohibit or to allow abortion. Twenty conservative states have already promised to make it illegal.
To the cries of “my body, my choice”, around thirty elected members of the House of Representatives, where this law had been successfully adopted in September, came to watch the Senate vote to challenge its failure. Within this group, several elected officials have publicly mentioned their abortion.
Since the revelation of this draft judgment, groups – more or less dense – come every evening to shout their anger in front of the Supreme Court, an imposing white marble building now protected by a fence.
Demonstration on May 14
The only other option currently available to abortion rights advocates to protect it was to change Senate rules to lower the number of votes needed to pass such a law.
Anxious to weigh in on the debate, several large progressive organizations have called on Americans to march en masse on May 14 across the United States. Four major marches are held in Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and hundreds of rallies across the rest of the country.
US President Joe Biden has also pledged to get personally involved in the battle and urged Americans to “choose favorable candidates” the right to abort during the mid-term legislative elections on 8 November.
He thus wishes to enlarge the majority of Democrats in the Senate, with the hope of then being able to pass this federal law protecting access to abortion. But these elections are always very dangerous for the power in place, and it is very possible that the Democrats will on the contrary lose their slim majorities in Congress during the ballot.
Find our forums on the right to abortion in the United States
Eric Fassin, professor of sociology at the University of Paris 8: “Abortion, the end of a right”
Amandine Clavaud, Director of the Gender Equality Observatory at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation: “The cold war against women has never ended”
Denis Lacorne, emeritus research director at CERI-Sciences Po: “The triumph of Trumpism and these main supporters”
Esther Cyna, Doctor of American Civilization: “The Supreme Court’s project on abortion risks calling into question other advances in the civil rights movement”
Stephane Auray, the Economics and Statistics Research Center, David Fuller, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin, and Guillaume Vandenbroucke, Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis (Missouri): “Changing regulations to prohibit abortion could cause the teenage birth rate to rise again”