little more than two Weeks after the Supreme Court handed anti-abortion Republicans a historic victory by striking down Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats are moving to protect interstate travel for abortion care.
The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, shared exclusively with HuffPost, aims to counter some of these attacks by protecting the right to travel freely from state to state to seek reproductive health care services. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the bill Tuesday morning, joined by nearly three dozen Democratic co-sponsors, including Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y. ), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that House Democrats will soon vote on similar legislation, aimed at “addressing troubling threats from the Republican Party to restrict the Americans’ freedom to travel, reaffirming the constitutional right to seek care. freely and voluntarily throughout the country.
The Senate legislation highlights the constitutional protections found in the 14th Amendment for patients who travel across state lines for abortion care and physicians who provide that care in pro-choice states. The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act also empowers the U.S. Attorney General and affected individuals to bring civil lawsuits against anyone who attempts to restrict a person’s right to travel across state lines to receive health care services. reproductive health.
“I know, after being home and talking to our health care providers, some of the laws in other states are having a chilling effect even in my state,” Cortez Masto told HuffPost. “So it is critical that we are not only protecting women and giving them the right to travel for critical reproductive health care to states like Nevada, but that we are also protecting providers as well as large businesses and employers. who want to help women receive this reproductive care.”
The bill defines reproductive services as “medical, surgical, counseling, or referral services related to pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, contraceptive services, and other reproductive care.” It also specifies that the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and “each territory and possession of the United States” is defined as a “state” under the proposed legislation.
Read the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act in its entirety. The story continues below.
Since the fall of Roe, more than a dozen states have already banned or severely restricted abortion, and more are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks, forcing many people to travel across state lines to seek abortion services. .
“As I see it, some of the other abortion-related legal issues raised by today’s decision are not especially difficult as a constitutional issue,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the recent Dobbs decision that overturned Roe. “For example, can a state prohibit a resident of that state from traveling to another state for an abortion? In my opinion, the answer is no, based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”
But Kavanaugh’s opinion on the constitutionality of an abortion ban on interstate travel hasn’t deterred some anti-abortion politicians from going that route. Republicans and many major anti-abortion groups have already proposed legislation to restrict patients from crossing state lines for abortion services.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who recently banned abortion in nearly all cases in her state, said “there will be a debate” about how to handle future cases of people traveling out of South Dakota to abort. And state lawmakers have already begun trying to restrict interstate travel in places like Missouri and Texas.
Earlier this year, Missouri State Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman introduced an amendment to several bills that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who “aides or abets” a resident traveling for an abortion. outside of Missouri. The bill is “an attempt to ensure that the pro-life protections that exist in Missouri are provided to all Missourians and we can save lives,” Coleman told HuffPost at the time.
Most recently, a group of anti-abortion Republicans in Texas preemptively went after a Dallas law firm that promised employees it would reimburse the costs of traveling out of state for abortion services. The lawmakers argued that the employer violates a 1925 abortion ban that was enacted after Roe’s fall. Anti-choice Republicans also outlined plans to introduce a bill in the 2023 legislative session that would make it illegal for any Texas employer to pay for elective abortion or travel expenses and allow citizens to sue anyone. suspected of paying for an abortion.
“Women must remain free to safely travel to another state to seek the care they need, and my administration will uphold that fundamental right,” President Joe Biden said just hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. “If any state or local official, high or low, attempts to interfere with a woman exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight back against that deeply anti-American attack.”
Bans on interstate travel to access abortion are “against women, against workers, against businesses and, honestly, they are unconstitutional,” Cortez Masto said.
Murray agreed, telling HuffPost that Republicans “want to hold women captive in their own states by punishing them for exercising their constitutional right to travel within our country to get the care they need.”
“Restricting women’s right to travel across state lines is truly radical and un-American,” Murray said. “Our bill would protect the constitutional right of Americans to travel across state lines to obtain a legal abortion, and it would protect the providers who treat them. Even as Republicans go to the ends of the Earth to strip us of our constitutional rights, Democrats are fighting back to protect them.”