Cantwell, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Reproductive Health Providers from Prosecution

Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act would prohibit anti-choice states from penalizing doctors who perform legal abortions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 25 Senate Democratic colleagues to introduce the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, which would ban anti-choice states from restricting or preventing health care providers from performing legal abortions.

The bill would establish protections for providers in states where abortion remains legal – including Washington state, where reproductive health centers are seeing a surge in out-of-state patients – and shield them from efforts to restrict their practice or create uncertainty about their legal liability.

The legislation was introduced today by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). In addition to prohibiting interference or restriction against people who perform legal abortions, the bill would:

  • Block any federal funds from being used to pursue legal action or other enforcement, disciplinary, or adverse licensing proceedings against patients or providers;
  • Establish a new $40 million grant program at the Department of Justice to fund legal assistance or legal education for reproductive health care providers;
  • Establish a new $40 million grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services to help reproductive health care providers obtain necessary physical, cyber, or data privacy security upgrades; and
  • Protect reproductive health care providers from being denied professional liability coverage because they offer legal services to patients.

Currently, nearly 80% of abortion patients served at Planned Parenthood in Pullman, Washington, come from neighboring Idaho. The Planned Parenthood in Kennewick, Washington – the closest reproductive health center to Boise, Idaho – is experiencing a 7,000% increase in abortion patient visits from Idaho compared to this time last year.

Since last year’s leaked draft opinion indicated the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn the reproductive care precedent established under Roe v. Wade, Sen. Cantwell has been acting aggressively to protect abortion access for women across the country. In June 2022, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the My Body, My Data Act to protect personal reproductive health data. In July 2022, following a meeting with health care providers at the University of Washington Medical Center, Sen. Cantwell cosponsored the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to ban anti-choice states from penalizing or prosecuting health care providers that offer reproductive services in states where abortion care is legal.

“[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,” Sen. Cantwell said upon introduction of the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act. “We need to provide certainty so they can provide the full range of health care services, regardless of where that patient comes from.”

The same month, Sen. Cantwell also cosponsored the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify the right to contraception access established by the Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut. In March, Sen. Cantwell joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in reintroducing the Women’s Health Protection Act and hosting a roundtable discussion on the path forward to defend Americans’ reproductive rights. Earlier this month, Sen. Cantwell joined hundreds of her Democratic colleagues in filing amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the Biden Administration’s appeals of Texas federal district court and Fifth Circuit rulings which would restrict availability to mifepristone. The Supreme Court agreed to a stay, permitting the safe and legal drug to remain available for the time being, but the litigation is still pending in the lower courts. Last week, Sen. Cantwell spoke alongside veterans and reproductive rights groups at a press conference to oppose Republicans’ attempt to strip reproductive care from veterans and their families.