Henry Cuellar Lone Democrat to Vote Against Abortion Rights as Bill Passes House

The House voted 218-211 today to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, a law that would "protect a person's ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider's ability to provide abortion services."

In a move meant to codify the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, the bill was passed in partisan fashion with Henry Cuellar of Texas standing as the only Democrat to vote no against the effort.

Cuellar's vote stands in stark contrast with the position of his party. The issue of abortion has become an increasingly significant issue in America's political polarization with the Pew Research Center reporting that 80 percent of Democrats support abortion legality while 63 percent of Republicans said it should be illegal. The passage of this bill signified a historical moment for this issue's role in American politics.

"At long last we have a pro-choice House Democratic Caucus, which is a majority of the House," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after the vote. "This is the first Congress that can make that claim."

Cuellar, who represents Texas' 28th district, which spans across the border of West Texas from McAllen through Laredo up to San Antonio, represents a voter base that identifies as 79 percent Hispanic and features a Catholic majority, according to data gathered by Daily Kos.

While Pew estimates that 68 percent of Hispanic Catholics lean Democrat, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 52 percent of Hispanic Catholics oppose legal abortion in most or all cases. Cuellar identifies as both Hispanic and Roman Catholic, according to Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Pope Francis, who leads the Catholic church, has recently called abortion "murder."

Senators Graham And Cuellar Hold News Conference
Along with voting against abortion, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Deomcrat, has also faced heat for comments he's made on migration at the southern border. Here, he speaks on border security and illegal immigration during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 30 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Cuellar ranked as the third most politically right Democrat in the House, behind Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, according to GovTrack, and joined the fourth most bipartisan bills of any Democrat. He has also previously voted against abortion measures. In 2015, he voted in support of a 20-week ban on abortions.

This vote comes in the wake of Texas' law against abortions six weeks after pregnancy as Mississippi seeks to pass its own bill banning abortions after 15 weeks.

While this vote came as a milestone for House Democrats, it will require 60 votes to pass a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate, which is unlikely to be achieved.

In response to the Senate version of this bill likely being put to rest by Republican intervention, Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has called on her colleagues to join together in repealing the filibuster.

"We must pass federal laws to protect the right to safe, legal abortion," she wrote in a tweet. "We must pass the Women's Health Protection Act to put an end to these cruel state bans on our rights. And we can't let the filibuster stand in our way."