With the overturning of Roe v. Wade last month, one of the ways for the Democratic Party to preserve the right to safe and legal abortions across the U.S. is to use its majority in Congress and pass federal legislation. This might be the only way to quell frustrated voters before the midterm elections in November, Northeastern political science experts say; however, codification of Roe might be out of reach if Democrats don’t find a way around the filibuster—a Senate rule that allows unlimited debate and can prevent action on legislation. Sixty votes are required to break the filibuster in the Senate, which is currently split 50-50, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote in the case of a tie.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ruling, which protected a person’s right to have an abortion nationwide since 1973, President Joe Biden stated on June 24 that the only way to secure a woman’s right to choose is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe as federal law. Later, Biden, who has been previously skeptical of filibuster reform, suggested that Democrats might need to use an exception to the filibuster rule to enact such legislation. This could create a perception that Democrats are being reactionary, says Costas Panagopoulos, chair of the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University.