Jul 15, 2022 - Health

House passes bill to protect interstate travel for abortions

Picture of an abortion rights protest in front of Capitol Hill
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The House on Friday passed a bill to protect people who travel out-of-state to access abortion care in a 223-205 vote, following last month's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Driving the news: House lawmakers also passed a bill that codifies abortion protections that used to be guaranteed by Roe into federal law. That law had already passed the House in 2021 but failed in the Senate.

The big picture: Without Roe, states have the authority to regulate abortion at any point during pregnancy. Several states have already moved to ban or heavily restrict access to the procedure.

  • Blue states have enacted protections in anticipation that red states will enact laws prohibiting their residents to travel elsewhere to get an abortion.

Details: The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, introduced by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), looks to prohibit states from interfering with Americans' interstate travel to access abortion care.

  • The bill sets protections to health providers who perform an abortion on out-of-state patients, to the patient, and to anyone that helps someone travel for the procedure.

The Women's Health Protection Act (passed in a 219-210 vote), authored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), prohibits states from banning abortion before viability. It also bars them from requiring a patient to "make medically unnecessary in-person visits" before getting the procedure.

  • It says state governments cannot impose restrictions on abortion pills, adding that health providers cannot be limited from prescribing them and from using telemedicine for abortion services.

Between the lines: Democrats, including President Biden, want to get rid of the filibuster to successfully pass abortion protective legislation in both chambers.

Be smart: Because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose changing Senate rules to pass abortion legislation and there are not 10 Republican Senators who support abortion rights. Chu, WHPA's author, told Axios that Democrats need two more senators who will support getting rid of the filibuster, as well as vote to pass abortion protections.

The other side: Anti-abortion groups have said they are working with Republican lawmakers to create a bill to ban abortion nationwide. Such a bill has not been introduced in Congress.

  • On Thursday, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) blocked a request from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to unanimously pass a bill to protect out-of-state travel for abortion.

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