Just over two weeks after the Supreme Court handed a historic victory to anti-abortion Republicans by repealing Roe v. Wade, Senate Democrats are moving to guard interstate travel for abortion care.
The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, shared exclusively with HuffPost, goals to counteract a few of these attacks by protecting the fitting to travel freely from state to state to hunt reproductive health care services. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the bill Tuesday morning, together with nearly three dozen Democratic co-sponsors, including Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that Democrats within the lower chamber will soon vote on similar laws, geared toward “addressing the GOP’s disturbing threats to limit Americans’ freedom to travel — reaffirming the Constitutional right to hunt care freely and voluntarily throughout the country.”
The Senate laws underscores the constitutional protections present in the 14th Amendment for patients traveling across state lines for abortion care and the 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 impacted individuals to bring civil suits against anyone who attempts to limit an individual’s right to cross state lines to receive reproductive health care services.
“I do know, after being home and talking with our health care providers, a few of the laws in other states are having a chilling effect even in my state,” Cortez Masto told HuffPost. “So, it’s critical that not only are we protecting women and giving them the fitting to travel for critical reproductive health care to states like Nevada, we’re also protecting providers in addition to those large corporations and employers who need to assist women to receive this reproductive care.”
The bill defines reproductive services as “medical, surgical, counseling, or referral services related to pregnancy, the termination of a pregnancy, contraception services, and other reproductive care.” It also specifies that the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and “each territory and possession of the USA” is defined as a “state” under the proposed laws.
Read the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act in full. Story continues below.
Since Roe fell, over a dozen states have already banned or severely restricted abortion, and more are prone to follow suit in the approaching weeks — forcing many individuals to travel across state lines to hunt abortion care.
“As I see it, a few of the other abortion-related legal questions raised by today’s decision usually are not especially difficult as a constitutional matter,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote within the recent Dobbs decision overturning Roe. “For instance, may a state bar a resident of that state from traveling to a different state to acquire an abortion? For my part, the reply isn’t any, based on the constitutional right to interstate travel.”
But Kavanaugh’s opinion on the constitutionality of an interstate travel abortion ban hasn’t deterred some anti-abortion politicians from pursuing that route. Republicans and plenty of heavyweight anti-abortion groups have already proposed laws to limit 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 likely be a debate” about the right way to handle future cases of individuals traveling out of South Dakota to get abortions. And state lawmakers have already began attempting to restrict interstate travel in places like Missouri and Texas.
From left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), talk before the beginning of a Senate Finance Committee hearing to look at President Joe Biden’s proposed budget request for fiscal 12 months 2023, on June 7, 2022.
Earlier this 12 months, Missouri state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman introduced an amendment to several bills that might allow private residents to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a resident traveling to get an abortion outside of Missouri. The bill is “an try to make sure that the pro-life protections which might be in place in Missouri are provided to all Missouri residents and we’re able to avoid wasting lives,” Coleman told HuffPost on the time.
More recently, a gaggle of anti-abortion Texas Republicans have preemptively gone after a Dallas law firm that promised employees it might reimburse costs for traveling out of state for abortion care. The lawmakers argued that the employer violates a 1925 abortion ban that was enacted after Roe fell. The anti-choice Republicans also described their plans to introduce a bill within the 2023 legislative session that might make it illegal for any Texas employer to pay for an elective abortion or travel expenses and permit private residents to sue anyone suspected of paying for an abortion.
“Women must remain free to travel safely to a different state to hunt care they need, and my administration will defend that bedrock right,” President Joe Biden said just hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. “If any state or local official — high or low — tries to interfere with a girl exercising her basic right to travel, I’ll do every little thing in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.”
Bans on interstate travel for abortion access are “anti-woman, they’re anti-worker, they’re anti-business and, quite truthfully, they’re unconstitutional,” said Cortez Masto.
Murray agreed, telling HuffPost that Republicans “need to hold women captive in their very own states by punishing them for exercising their constitutional right to travel inside our country to get the care they need.”
“Restricting women’s right to travel across state lines is actually radical — and un-American,” Murray said. “Our bill would protect Americans’ constitutional right to travel across state lines to get a lawful abortion — and protect the providers who look after them. Whilst Republicans go to the ends of the Earth to strip away our constitutional rights, Democrats are fighting back to guard them.”