House Democrats reintroduced a bill Thursday to protect people’s right to travel out of state for an abortion, as many states clamp down on access to the procedure.
The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act would protect not just anyone seeking an abortion out of their home state but also anyone who helps them, for instance someone who drives them across the border or the health care provider who carries out the procedure. Democrats had introduced the bill last summer, weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but the legislation failed to pass the Senate.
Since the nationwide right to abortion fell, people have rushed to states where the procedure is legal, such as Colorado, where reproductive health centers reported seeing wait times for an abortion double to two weeks, by midsummer, from one earlier in the year. One of the most tragic and infamous cases was a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion after she was raped.
As states try to restrict abortion access even further—including Kansas, where the legislature is seeking to overturn a ballot decision to protect abortion rights—one such method is to go after people who travel out of state for an abortion and those who help them when they get there. The Indiana attorney general tried to penalize the doctor who performed the 10-year-old’s abortion.
In March, before the Dobbs draft opinion had even been leaked, Republican state lawmakers in Missouri introduced a bill that would allow individuals to sue anyone who helped a state resident get an abortion, including an out-of-state health care provider or anyone providing transportation across state lines. State House lawmakers blocked the bill a few weeks later.
The Ensuring Women’s Right to Reproductive Freedom Act is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the majority. The GOP has made it clear it opposes reproductive rights, despite losing big-time during the 2022 midterm elections as a result of its stance. The act passed the House when Democrats controlled the chamber last year, but failed to win the requisite 60 votes in the Senate.
The Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified the right to abortion, also failed to pass the Senate in May after all Republican senators and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin voted against it.