Washington’s senior U.S. senator, for decades a leading voice on abortion rights in Congress, pointed Friday to the November elections as an outlet for anger and outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
When the decision was announced “I just felt an absolutely heavy weight on my shoulders,” Sen. Patty Murray said.
“I am scared and frightened for women today, and I am deeply saddened,” she added. “But also really angry.”
Murray, a five-term Democrat who chairs the Senate’s health committee, has pushed unsuccessfully this year for a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to abortion nationwide.
She also led a group of senators this month in urging President Joe Biden to sign an executive order on abortion rights, suggesting the federal government could increase access to medication abortions and help pay for individuals to travel for abortions in other states, among other steps. But none of those actions would dramatically alter the new reality ushered in by the court.
“Let me make this clear. Right now, there are not the votes in the United States Senate to enshrine Roe in law,” Murray said Friday on MSNBC.
“I’m going to be working every day to make sure voters understand that this is the choice they will make in November,” she added. “That is the only way we’re going to be able to change the law and make sure that women can make their own economic and health care choices.”
Murray and her colleagues are stuck right now in the 50-50 Senate because they have neither the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster on abortion-rights legislation nor the 50 votes needed to evade a filibuster. Two conservative Democrats have declined to support that.
“We need 52 Democratic senators and we need a Democratic majority in the House to send this to the president’s desk,” Murray said. “We’ve already seen that Republicans are determined to block anything we can do.”
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat whose district includes most of Seattle, echoed Murray’s message in a statement Friday, calling on voters to deliver pro-choice majorities in both the House and the Senate.
“All of us must continue to take this righteous anger to the streets and to the voting booths,” she said. “We must channel our anger into organizing and make it clear the right to abortion is on the ballot this November.”
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican whose district includes Spokane, also looked ahead in a Fox News interview as she celebrated the court’s ruling as a victory affirming that “every life is worth living.”
“This is just the beginning. How are we going to respond?” she said, agreeing with former Vice President Mike Pence, who called Friday for abortion bans in every state.
The Democratic Party is playing defense in Washington this year, with Rep. Kim Schrier facing multiple Republican challengers in the 8th Congressional District, a purple district that stretches from Issaquah to Wenatchee.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seized on the Roe v. Wade ruling Friday to blast Schrier’s opponents, arguing those candidates must now “own up to their extreme, deeply unpopular positions.”
Jesse Jensen, a combat veteran and technology manager who ran for Congress in 2020; Matt Larkin, an attorney and business executive who ran for attorney general in 2020; and Scott Stephenson, an Amazon program manager, have all opposed abortion or Roe v. Wade. Reagan Dunn, a Metropolitan King County Council member, described himself as a supporter of abortion rights in past years but voted against council legislation affirming such rights last month.
“The stakes in this election could not be higher: Every GOP candidate is unabashedly anti-choice and would be a reliable vote in Congress against women’s reproductive freedoms,” DCCC spokesperson Johanna Warshaw said in a statement.
Murray’s challengers this year include Republican Tiffany Smiley, a nurse who has advocated for wounded war veterans. Smiley issued a statement Friday about the court’s decision, describing herself as “pro-life” and “pro-woman” and calling Murray an extremist on abortion rights. The ruling, Smiley said, means “the people’s representatives, not unelected judges, will make the decision on regulating abortion.”
Some Democrats have asked why leaders didn’t do more to stop Republicans from securing Friday’s ruling. Murray voted against the three conservative Supreme Court justices nominated by then-President Donald Trump, she noted.
“I clearly saw this coming,” she said.