Cantwell Introduces Legislation to Protect Abortion Patients and Providers from Prosecution

Office of Senator Maria Cantwell press release.

On July 12, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 33 of her Democratic Senate colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022. This legislation clarifies that it is illegal for anti-choice states to penalize or prosecute providers offering services in states where reproductive health care is legal, or limit travel for patients to receive abortion services in these states. The bill would empower the U.S. Attorney General or the impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict an individual’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.

Last week, Sen. Cantwell called on the U.S. Department of Justice to provide clarity on current law and potential federal actions to protect patients and providers at a press conference at UW Medical Center. At the press conference, Sen. Cantwell said, “With these new laws restricting rights, many states have concerns about our health care community and how they will continue to practice if those services are challenged by patients who traveled from states where abortion has been criminalized.”

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Sen. Cantwell continued, “[Health care officials] should continue to provide reproductive choice, without the concern that someone from another state, an Attorney General, or law enforcement officer is going to try to pursue them or their license…We need to provide certainty so they can provide the full range of health care services, regardless of where that patient comes from.”

Legislation introduced in Missouri and draft legislation proposed by anti-choice extremists make clear that interstate travel for reproductive health care is under attack. TheFreedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022 underscores the Constitutional protections for interstate travel and provides redress for patients whose rights are violated. The legislation would also protect health care providers in pro-choice states like Washington from prosecution and lawsuits for serving individuals traveling from other states.

At a roundtable event at Planned Parenthood – Spokane Health Center last month, Planned Parenthood officials noted to Sen. Cantwell that they have already seen a 60% increase in patients traveling across state lines from Idaho. In March 2022, Idaho’s Governor signed an abortion ban modeled after Texas’s SB8, allowing private citizens to sue doctors for providing abortion care services.  

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Sen. Cantwell is also a co-sponsor of the My Body, My Data Act, which would create a new national standard to protect personal health care data by minimizing personal data from being collected, retained, disclosed, or misused. A summary of the bill is available HERE.

Prior to Dobbs decision release, Sen. Cantwell joined 24 Senate colleagues in a letter urging President Biden to take immediate federal action to protect Americans’ reproductive rights and prepare for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In addition to Sen. Cantwell (D-WA), the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022 is cosponsored by Senators Durbin (D-IL), Schumer (D-NY), Blumenthal (D-CT), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Padilla (D-CA) Klobuchar (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), Stabenow (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Murphy (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Smith (D-MN), Bennet (D-CO), Baldwin (D-WI), Coons (D-DE), Markey (D-MA), Warnock (D-GA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Wyden (D-OR), Kaine (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Luján (D-NM), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), and Tester (D-MT). The legislation is led by Senators Cortez Masto (D-NV), Whitehouse (D-RI), Murray (D-WA), and Gillibrand (D-NY).

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This legislation is endorsed by National Women’s Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Advocates for Youth. 

Video of Sen. Cantwell’s press conference is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.

Source: The Suburban Times