Collins-Sinema compromise bill draws backlash: “Political stunt that won’t address abortion rights”

Unless they're "willing to end the filibuster, there's no reason to take it seriously," advocate says

Published August 2, 2022 12:30PM (EDT)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

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As GOP-led states continue working to further restrict reproductive freedom in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's late June ruling, some progressive advocates on Monday responded critically to the introduction of bipartisan abortion rights legislation.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced the Reproductive Freedom for All Act, which they claim "would undo the damage of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade."

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju declared that "this bill is just another political stunt that would not actually address the abortion rights and access crisis that has pushed care out of reach for millions of people already."

"Unless these senators are willing to end the filibuster to pass this measure, there's no reason to take it seriously," Timmaraju added.

According to the co-sponsors, the Reproductive Freedom for All Act 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.

NARAL noted that in February, then again in May—after a draft of the Dobbs decision leaked—both Collins and Murkowski refused to support the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), a Democrat-led bill to codify Roe, the 1973 decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion until it was recently overturned by the high court's far-right majority.

At least 10 Republican senators would have to join with the Democratic caucus to pass a bill, due to the filibuster rule that is backed by not only the GOP, but also Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who notably opposed WHPA.

"Senate Republicans have been crystal clear about where they stand on abortion," NARAL said, pointing out that ahead of the Dobbs ruling, "47 GOP senators signed onto amicus briefs calling on the court to end" Roe.

Collins and Murkowski also helped shift the U.S. Supreme Court to the right during former President Donald Trump's tenure. Though Murkowski voted present rather than to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Collins voted against confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Murkowski backed Barrett, Collins supported Kavanaugh, and they both voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch.

As The Washington Post reported Monday:

It's not clear that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would bring up the bill for a vote ahead of the midterm elections in November. There has been disagreement in the Democratic caucus on whether a bipartisan bill that has no chance of passage should be brought forward, which would make it more difficult for Democratic candidates to contrast themselves with Republicans. And many Democrats, Kaine said, would prefer the Democratic version of the bill, the Women's Health Protection Act, which includes fewer limitations on abortion.

Kaine calls the bill the bare minimum.

"What the four of us were trying to do was put a statutory minimum in place that replicated what the law was a day before Dobbs," he said.

The newspaper noted that Kaine also admitted their proposal does not have the support of 10 Republican senators.

Last week, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, blocked the Right to Contraception Act. Because Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., tried to pass the House-approved bill by unanimous consent, other GOP senators were not required to weigh in.

By Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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Abortion Common Dreams Kyrsten Sinema Partner Politics Susan Collins