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Senate Democrats plan a vote on abortion rights but it's unlikely to pass


Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us next. She is one of the Democratic senators expected to vote this week on the Women's Health Protection Act. If it became law, which is unlikely, it would set federal standards for the right to an abortion. Senator, welcome to the program.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thanks so much, Steve. It's great to be on.

INSKEEP: In your view, does this bill take the rules of Roe v. Wade and make them law in case Roe v. Wade is overturned?

KLOBUCHAR: That's exactly what it does. It codifies - puts into law the protections that appear to be soon stripped away from the women of this country. With this leaked opinion, the court literally is poised to strip away nearly 50 years of women's rights, Steve. And we know the fall will be swift because over 20 states already have laws in place, including 13 that would automatically go into effect. And I just want to make clear that is against the wishes of, depending on the numbers used, between 70% to 80% of Americans, women and the men that stand with them. And to me, it comes down to a fundamental question. Who's making these personal decisions for women? Is it Ted Cruz, or is it a woman and her doctor?

INSKEEP: Well, this is very interesting...

KLOBUCHAR: Are women free and equal citizens anymore? Because when you read this opinion, you realize it doesn't take you back to the 1950s. It takes you back to the 1850s.

INSKEEP: This is a very interesting point that you raise when you talk about the majority, Senator. You're correct that there was a leaked draft opinion. We're told by the Supreme Court it's not their final ruling, but it suggests the direction the court is heading. You're correct that majorities support the right to an abortion. The numbers change depending on which restrictions you should impose or leave out, but there's a majority there. But that is a question for you. Your bill's not going to pass. The court is going to rule something that's going to affect Roe v. Wade in some way, it seems. Your side, generally speaking, is the majority view. But how do you translate that majority into political power?

KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, good question. I think we all know what's happened here. The Republicans in the Senate have stacked the court, and I don't believe the extreme justices that are on that court reflect where the American people are. So now it is on us to make sure that the will of the people is known. And the way you do that is through elections. Yes, we will have this vote. I think it's really important to have this vote to show where everyone stands. And what we know from in the House, not one Republican - it was 218 to 11. They passed this bill in the House of Representatives to codify Roe v. Wade, but not one Republican voted for it.

And so it's really important for the public to understand where people stand. And I think, you know, usually they say, don't get mad, vote. Well, what I say right now is get mad and vote. And again, the women of this country and the men that stand with them are going to have to see where people stand because then they have to translate that into their decisions in the polls in the fall.

INSKEEP: As I understand, Senator, two Republican senators - Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - have offered a narrower alternative that would support the right to abortion. But it's narrower. It would likely get more votes. It would likely get a majority of votes, as a matter of fact. Why not go for that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, let me make this clear. What our bill does is - says very straight - it says that doctors and hospitals can follow the rules that we have right now with Roe v. Wade. And my problem with the bill that they have introduced is that it doesn't explicitly stop states from limiting access.

There are states doing crazy things right now. Missouri is considering a law that would actually allow you to sue if a woman tried to go across state lines to get an abortion. Louisiana is advancing a law that says it's homicide if there's an abortion after an egg is fertilized. Those are the kinds of things that we're looking at right now. Medication abortions, right? - a lot of young women are using that, yet 19 states have put in bans or restrictions. So that's why I'm concerned if you narrow it so that some of these restrictions are already allowed to stand.

INSKEEP: Interesting that you mention that Missouri proposal that would reach across state lines. We've heard of a lot of proposals like that. We're also tracking places like New York and Connecticut that are talking about legislation that would effectively defy other states' laws, say we're not going to extradite you if you're accused of that kind of crime, that sort of thing. Is there a real risk, Senator, of crisis here after a court ruling where there is genuine clashes between states?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes. And that is why when Justice Blackmun, a Republican-appointed - Republican president-appointed justice from Minnesota, wrote this opinion, he said it's a fundamental right because you don't want a patchwork of laws. You don't want a waitress in the heart of Texas to have to decide if she's going to quit her job to take a bus to go 250 miles across state lines. You know, it's hard to put yourself in other people's shoes, but people better start doing it because this is a fundamental right. And women in Minnesota should have the same rights as women in Texas. It shouldn't be a patchwork. It's a right. It's been there for 50 years.

INSKEEP: Senator, thanks for your time, really appreciate it, as always.

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.