Democrats want to codify Roe but the filibuster stands in the way. Here's what 'codify' means.

·2 min read

Congressional Democrats have mulled options to guarantee the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling’s protections since a leaked majority draft indicated in May that the Supreme Court would reverse the decision. The majority conservative court indeed overturned Roe last week, sparking nationwide tumult among abortion-rights advocates and celebrations by their anti-abortion counterparts.

The reversal returns the power to state legislatures to pass full bans on abortion. The ruling, which stood for nearly 50 years, had nullified broad bans on the procedure and established it as a constitutional right.

Now Democrats are pushing to effectively restore that right by “codifying” Roe v. Wade.

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What does it mean to codify Roe v. Wade?

To codify something means to “arrange laws or rules into a systematic code,” according to Cornell Law’s Legal Information Institute.

When lawmakers say they want to “codify Roe” it means they want inscribe the abortion rights the ruling once protected into federal law.

The federal law would supersede any anti-abortion laws passed by state legislatures.

Senate Democrats introduced a bill codifying Roe after the leaked draft in May. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have legalized abortion nationwide. It failed, as expected. All 50 Republican senators and one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said they opposed the bill, which couldn’t clear a filibuster and advance to a final vote, USA TODAY reported.

The House passed a similar bill last year and again on Friday, though it is likely to fail again in the Senate.

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What is the filibuster?

An abortion rights bill would need to overcome the filibuster, a steep challenge. The filibuster allows unlimited debate, with some exceptions, on laws that reach the Senate floor before they go to a vote.

Senators use the filibuster to block laws from ever reaching a vote — 60 votes are needed to end debate and send it to a vote, where only a simple majority (51) is needed for a bill to pass. Democrats simply don’t have enough votes to move legislation to a vote.

Progressive lawmakers have suggested changing the Senate rules to reform or eliminate the filibuster altogether.

And on Thursday, President Joe Biden said in a speech that he backed changing the rules to exempt an abortion rights bill from the filibuster, USA TODAY reported.

An in-depth look: Full history, explanation of the Senate’s consequential quirk and debate on its future

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What does codify mean? Explaining 'codify Roe' and Senate filibuster