WASHINGTON — Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., will introduce a new bill Thursday that aims to shore up access to abortion pills in states that have not yet restricted access, focusing on codifying current regulatory and usage language around the drugs at a time when many reproductive rights advocates believe they are the next to face restrictions across the country.
“We are on the precipice of the Supreme Court taking away protections for abortion,” Smith told NBC. “We’re doing everything we can to provide layers of protection.”
Smith’s bill, reported first by NBC News, would keep current Food and Drug Administration standards in place around prescribing mifepristone and other related drugs that end early pregnancies, up to 10 weeks. Setting these standards in advance, advocates say, would make it harder for states to chip away at access to this abortion method.
But the bill faces a steep climb in the Senate, where a bipartisan group of senators rejected a bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would have codified the protections of the landmark Roe versus Wade decision as the national standard. Smith’s bill is likely to face the same fate.
Asked about this, Smith allowed: “The realities in the Senate are the realities in the Senate. We don’t have the votes right now.”
It now comes as the country awaits a hotly-anticipated Supreme Court decision on abortion access that has Roe directly in its crosshairs. That decision could come in June or July from the nation’s highest court.
Smith was one of more than twenty senators, led by Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Patty Murray, who signed onto a letter demanding the Biden administration move on several executive actions, including bolstering protections for the abortion pill. The White House has signaled an openness to executive actions, but the federal government is limited in what it can do. Most of the future battles for reproductive access will happen at the state level.
Nevertheless, Democrats will huddle Thursday for a special caucus lunch centered on the issue of reproductive health. Senators Warren, Murray, and Tim Kaine of Virginia will lead the discussion, which, in the words of one aide, is meant to get “everyone on the same page” ahead of the SCOTUS decision.