Cantwell Warns of 'Chilling Effect' of Idaho's Criminal Penalties for Abortion
Cantwell: “They are speaking on behalf of the providers that want to provide reproductive choice in states that have passed this law and they are concerned. We need to get this legislation passed.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined several Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor to speak in support of the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act. During her floor remarks, Sen. Cantwell emphasized the need to protect providers in pro-choice states like Washington from being prosecuted for providing care to patients traveling from bordering anti-choice states. In March, Idaho’s governor signed a bill modeled after Texas’s SB8, which allows private citizens to sue doctors for providing abortion care services.
Sen. Cantwell posed this question to one of the authors of the bill, Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV): “What is happening now with the chilling effect to providers and their anxiety over people pursuing them for seeing patients from states in which Roe v. Wade is not fully protected?”
Responded Sen. Cortez Masto: “What I hear from my providers is that, ‘we want to help women, we want them to come to our state, but if their state is going to pursue legislation or criminalize, or penalize, or prosecute us, or a private citizen can come after us from that state -- then we're having second thoughts about this,’ because they do not want to be embroiled in some sort of litigation.”
Sen. Cantwell continued, “We were joined by the American Medical Association who also expressed this concern. They are speaking on behalf of the providers that want to provide reproductive choice in states that have passed this law and they are concerned. We need to get this legislation passed.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Cantwell joined 33 of her Democratic Senate colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022. The 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.”
Sen. Cantwell continued, providers, “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.”
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.
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.
The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act 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 floor speech is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.
Video of Sen. Cantwell’s press conference at UW Medicine is available HERE, audio HERE, and a full transcript HERE.
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