Murkowski joins bipartisan group pushing bill protecting abortion and contraceptive rights

WASHINGTON — Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski joined a bipartisan coalition on Monday to introduce a bill that would protect access to abortion and contraception.

The measure faces an uncertain future in a Senate that failed to pass a broader measure enshrining abortion rights in May. It also comes as Murkowski faces re-election this fall, with abortion becoming a key issue in this campaign.

Despite the bill’s bipartisan co-sponsors — Tim Kaine, D-Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, Susan Collins, R-Maine and Murkowski — it’s unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

In a statement, the senators said it would “undo the damage” of the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that the court may also reconsider its positions on contraception and same-sex marriage.

The bill is based on the wording of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and other Supreme Court decisions that protected abortion prior to the Dobbs v. Jackson on June 24.

It would block state regulations that place an “undue burden” on women trying to obtain a pre-viable abortion, according to the senators’ written statement. The law would allow states to impose “reasonable restrictions” on post-viability abortion and guarantee abortions to protect the life or health of the mother.

In Alaska, access to abortion is protected by the state constitution. Changing that would require changing the constitution — a possibility GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy has suggested exploring in the state’s next legislative session.

Federal legislation would also preserve the right to access contraception that is currently constitutionally protected by another Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut.

Additionally, it would maintain conscience protections in place for health care providers who refuse to perform abortions based on religious beliefs.

“For five decades, reproductive health care decisions have been centered on the individual – we cannot go back in time by limiting women’s personal freedoms,” Murkowski said in a written statement.

“Every American should have autonomy over their own health care decisions,” Murkowski said. “The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has made it imperative for Congress to restore women’s reproductive rights.”

Murkowski is the only one of the bill’s sponsors to run for office this year, and she faced a flurry of criticism for her votes to affirm two of the justices who later backed the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Murkowski faces challenges from both right and left. His main opponents are conservative Republican candidate Kelly Tshibaka and Democrat Pat Chesbro, both of whom have raised concerns about Murkowski’s stance on abortion access.

“Put that on the list of reasons Lisa Murkowski can’t be trusted. Just a few weeks ago she voted against codifying Roe v. Wade, but now she wants pro-choice voters to think she’s for it,” Tshibaka said in a written statement Monday.

Murkowski in May voted against the House abortion bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, because she said it went too far beyond Roe’s codification. She did not take a position on the House Right to Contraception Act, which passed 228-195 last month.

Murkowski once tried to codify Roe v. Wade. Alongside Collins, she introduced a bill to protect Roe v. Wade in February. However, the bill has not moved forward since.

Tshibaka has previously said she believes it is up to states to determine laws governing access to abortion. She criticized the new legislation Monday for failing to put in place federal limitations on late-term abortions, calling it “the most extreme position possible.”

Chesbro, who is running for the Senate seat with the support of the Alaska Democratic Party, said Monday she would not support the new legislation because it does not protect access to abortion after fetal viability – generally considered to be around 24 weeks gestation. Chesbro said she supports the Women’s Health Protection Act which did not move forward in May.

“I don’t think it really solves the problems that existed before Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Chesbro said of the new legislation. “I’m not going to call it a political stunt, but I will say I doubt it will pass even in its current form.”

The Daily News’ Riley Rogerson reported from Washington, DC, and Iris Samuels reported from Anchorage.

About Michael S. Montanez

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