Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has a clear goal now that the Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade, essentially ending the constitutional right to an abortion. In an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Ocasio-Cortez discussed the options for President Biden and the Democratic Party going forward, which included the possibility of expanding the Supreme Court and ending the filibuster. But Ocasio-Cortez didn’t stop there, implying these measures would help codify Roe v. Wade, and all the other cases that the Supreme Court indicated should be revisited.
But what does Ocasio-Cortez mean by codifying Roe v. Wade? The answer is simpler than it seems. To codify something means “ to arrange laws or rules into a systematic code,” as Cornell Law’s Legal Information Institute defines it. This essentially means that lawmakers want to make abortion rights into federal law.
If they managed to do that, then that federal law would supersede any anti-abortion laws passed at the state level, and abortion rights would be protected all across the country.
However, codifying Roe v. Wade isn’t something the Democrats are in a position to do right now – not with the filibuster rules being what they are. In May, after the draft of the decision to strike down Roe V. Wade was leaked, Democrats tried to codify abortion rights with the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, however, was opposed by every Republican Senator and one Democrat, Joe Manchin, meaning it didn’t have enough support to go directly to a vote.
Long term, the only solution for possibly codifying Roe v. Wade would be for the Democratic Party to end the filibuster – which allows for basically unlimited debate on laws that reach the Senate floor before they go to a vote – or gain a supermajority, as 60 votes are enough to end the debate and send the bill to a vote, where a simple majority is all that’s required for a bill to pass.