Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are hoping to build bipartisan consensus to get legislation protecting abortion rights through the U.S. Senate, but both know it won’t be easy.
“Candidly, whether we could get 60 votes in the Senate is a is a bit of a challenge, I’ll be the first to acknowledge,” Warner said on a call with Virginia reporters Thursday.
“I’ll be candid, I don’t think there’s enough votes in the Senate with a 60-vote threshold right now to do this, but frankly, there weren’t 60 votes to do gun safety legislation, either, three months ago,” Kaine said on a separate call with Virginia reporters on Thursday.
Both are backing legislation called the Freedom to Travel for Healthcare Act that would guarantee a woman’s right to travel across state lines to receive abortion care. Senate Republicans blocked the bill from being considered in a floor debate Thursday afternoon. Montana Republican Steve Daines said the “radical” bill would “give fly-in abortionists free rein to commit abortions on demand,” and argued that the bill “protects the greed, frankly, of woke corporations who see it as cheaper to pay for an abortion and abortion tourism than maternity leave for their employees.”
Warner said Thursday that the bill would simply protect already existing constitutional rights.
“Under the notion of interstate commerce, there’s a whole lot of things that have been allowed to have some federal protections, because you assume you have that right to move from one location to another in America,” Warner said. “It’s one of the things that says while we got 50 states, we are still one nation under God, and that fact, that we’re one nation, gives you the right of free ability to move.
“It just seems, frankly, downright un-American to me that some state that says we want to dictate what women do with their bodies, or what women choose to do for their health care decision, is to say, not only are we going to make it illegal for you to get access to health care in Texas or in Alabama, but we’re going to try to say to you, you can’t even go to another state and get those healthcare opportunities,” Warner said.
Kaine, a former law professor, offered criticism of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in its decision in Dobbs that overruled 50 years of judicial precedent protecting a woman’s right to an abortion.
“In throwing it out, they said, well, great, this can go back to the legislature. But that’s why the 14th Amendment was passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, because state legislatures had, you know, basically enacted laws about slavery, and they had enacted laws disabling women from voting and doing a whole lot of other things,” Kaine said. “State legislatures are hardly a comfort to you if you’re a member of an oppressed minority, and not represented in the state legislature. So, the kind of sunny attitude of the majority in Dobbs that don’t worry, there’s no constitutional protection for women’s right to make reproductive decisions, but this can just go back to legislatures, is a fundamental misunderstanding of why the 14th Amendment was put in place to begin with in Congress.
“The percentage of women in Congress, it’s about 25, 26 percent. That ranks us about 75th in the world. Women are more than 50 percent of the population. They’re dramatically underrepresented in the U.S. Congress. They’re dramatically underrepresented in almost every state legislature in the country. And so, the notion that women’s rights will just, great, it can be for the state legislature to decide that, that is cold comfort to groups of people, including women, who have historically been underrepresented in the legislative bodies making these decisions,” Kaine said.