‘Codify Roe v. Wade into law’: Is Biden right Senate should bypass filibuster?
- Approximately 22 states have “trigger laws” in place to restrict abortions while 16 states and DC have laws allowing abortion access.
- The Guttmacher Institute estimates around 63 million abortions have occurred since the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalized abortion nationwide.
- During a news conference in Madrid, Spain, President Biden said he supported adapting Senate filibuster rules to “codify Roe v. Wade.” A filibuster stalls voting on a bill and requires 60 votes to end cloture (or debate). Biden called the ruling “destabilizing” and described the Supreme Court as having “outrageous behavior” for overturning Roe.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remarked that Biden’s comments were “inappropriate” saying his “attacks on the court are unmerited and dangerous. He’s upset that the Court said the people, through their elected representatives, will have a say on abortion policy. That does not destabilize democracy—it affirms it. By contrast, it is behavior like the President’s that undermines equal justice and the rule of law.”
The uproar throughout many communities and across political and cultural groups over the recent SCOTUS overturn of decades of abortion precedent has shown how Americans really feel about the issue. The simple fact is the majority of Americans did not want this precedent overturned. Luckily, in our democracy, when the majority of people want something, our elected legislatures can (and should) enact it into law. President Biden is right to direct Congress to bypass the filibuster, which has recently been the death of virtually all progress, and codify the right to abortion into law.
The current situation, as per the recent SCOTUS ruling, returns decisions around the legality of abortion to the states. This is impractical because it has already created a patchwork of different laws depending on where one lives. While it is perfectly fine for states to have differing laws, something so fundamental as reproductive rights, which affect all humans, should be dealt with at the national level. Further, the patchwork system could put states into conflict with each other as some states work to expand access to abortion while others may attempt to prosecute those who cross state lines for an abortion. All of this can be avoided by congressional action.
Finally, by once and for all guaranteeing the right to an abortion, those most vehemently opposed to the option will perhaps consider working toward positive changes. This includes paid maternity/paternity leave, healthcare for children, and the myriad of other issues that would likely drive down the number of abortions and help those making difficult decisions rather than simply stripping them of their rights.
Biden's attack on the filibuster is an attack on Congress and their constitutional rights, specifically the right to unlimited debate. Those supporting Biden's actions do not understand the historical use of the filibuster, such as the famous Wayne Morse victory. Morse was actually an outspoken opponent of the filibuster, but he used his Democratic team to 'argue to educate,' eventually allowing him to protect hard-won union and labor rights. The filibuster is not just a political tool but actually 'empowers the minority and frustrates the majority.'
Moreover, the filibuster has historical and constitutional precedent, backed up by Article I of the Constitution, which governs and defines the powers of Congress. Senator Mike Enzi writes, 'The consequences of eliminating the filibuster, though, would go far beyond the Senate. It would knock a load-bearing wall out of our representative democracy. [...] We would rocket from one extreme to the other and then back, as different people took power.'
Unfortunately, Biden's call to action exemplifies the following statement: 'The filibuster is important except when it does not benefit me.' Democrats are playing a dangerous game when trying to change the rules to get what they want, which can be turned back on them just as quickly, with no winners in the end. Instead of getting rid of the filibuster altogether, the rules could change slightly to make it an extraordinary process, not a routine that does not serve everyone. Still, the filibuster must not be eliminated altogether because it protects minority rights. Finally, it embodies democratic debate and ensures that dissenting voices are heard. The heart of a true democracy is 'where the voice of the people is heard,' whether in our day-to-day lives or in Congress itself.