An attempt to protect abortion rights with a federal law in the US has failed.
The bid to preserve the rights – first enshrined in the Roe v Wade bill of 1973 – came following the leak of a Supreme Court document that appeared to suggest justices planned to overturn the almost 50-year-old legislation this summer.
But at the US Senate on Wednesday, the move was blocked by Republicans – a stark demonstration of America’s partisan divide on the issue.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives passed the bill, but it failed 49-51 in the upper Senate chamber.
One Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted with the Republicans, saying he supported keeping Roe v Wade but believed the new bill was too broad.
Many states in the US create their own, individual laws. Federal laws, however, apply to everyone and are achieved by a bill passing both houses of Congress.
President Joe Biden said Republicans “have chosen to stand in the way of Americans’ rights to make the most personal decisions about their own bodies, families and lives”, and urged voters to elect more abortion-rights legislators in November
He pledged in the meantime “to explore the measures and tools at our disposal” to secure rights established by Roe.
His party’s slim majority proved unable to overcome the filibuster led by Republicans, who have been working for decades to install conservative Supreme Court justices and end Roe v Wade.
A filibuster is a tactic used to oppose and prevent the passage of a bill.
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About half the states in the US have already approved laws that would further restrict or ban abortions, including some ‘trigger laws’ that would take effect once the court rules.
At a fundraiser in Chicago on Wednesday, President Biden said he believed after abortion rights, the Supreme Court could “go after same-sex marriage, contraception, and other rights”.
“Mark my words,” he added.
What is Roe v Wade and how could abortion become illegal in many US states?
Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, but views are more nuanced and mixed when it comes to later-term abortions.
Supreme Court decisions are not final until they are formally issued and the outcomes in some cases have changed between the justices’ initial discussions and their announcement.