Connecticut’s U.S. senators pushed Friday for the passage of a federal bill designed to protect women from states where abortion has been banned who travel to have the procedure done elsewhere.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy hosted a remote press conference with state abortion advocates and health care providers to call for the passage of the legislation, which Senate Republicans stalled from proceeding to a quick vote on Thursday.
Blumenthal called the failed attempt to advance the bill on a unanimous vote an “opening salvo.”
“We will push for this measure to receive a vote of the U.S. Senate with every single member of the Senate held accountable for their vote,” Blumenthal said. “This measure is absolutely essential to ban any limits on interstate travel to receive abortion services.”
The bill comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the longstanding Roe v. Wade decision, which had previously made abortion legal nationwide. Since then, a dozen states have quickly acted to outlaw abortion, with more expected to follow suit.
The legislation attempts to preempt states from seeking to prohibit women from traveling across state lines to access reproductive health services in states where abortion is still legal.
“Republicans claimed this was a solution in search of a problem,” Murphy said. “That’s nonsense. State legislatures across the country are going to pass laws that restrict the ability of women to travel to states like Connecticut and the Congress must stand up for the constitutional right to travel and make sure that interstate travel is still legal and possible and practical.”
So far no state has passed legislation restricting interstate travel. However, a state legislator in Missouri has unsuccessfully proposed such language, according to Politico. In Connecticut, lawmakers passed a bill this year designed to protect health care providers who treat women from out of state seeking abortion services.
During Friday’s press conference, Dr. Nicole Gavin, who specializes in fetal medicine at UConn Health, recounted a series of stories about patients who required abortions in high-risk situations. She said she felt lucky to practice in a state where she could still provide necessary services.
“Because of the many areas of this country where that right has been lost, we are going to see unprecedented numbers of patients traveling here for access to care,” she said. “[The bill] allows women to cross state lines to receive health care safely. It would also allow me to continue to perform my job as a high-risk pregnancy physician without the fear of civil lawsuits for saving the lives of women who desire to protect their reproductive rights.”
The senators held Friday’s press conference as the House was expected to take up a similar bill later in the day as well as a separate measure that would codify Roe v. Wade as a federal law. Although both bills are expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, their fate in the divided Senate was unclear.
According to a Thursday report from NBC News, Senate Republicans were divided on whether women should be able to travel to other states in order to receive abortion services with some senators maintaining that travel should not be restricted.
Janée Woods Weber, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, said policies curtailing travel would diminish the personal agency of women.
“Let’s be clear: restricting travel is not about supporting life. This is about control and subjugation of women, especially women who lack resources and support systems,” Weber said.