WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — U.S. Senate Democrats on Thursday pushed a plan that would ensure that women and doctors can cross state lines for abortion care without being penalized in their home states.
“Are we going to allow these lawmakers to hold American citizens hostage?” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wondered on the Senate floor, calling for the passage of the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act. “Women and their health providers are counting on us.”
Fellow Illinois Democrat Sen. Tammy Duckworth said the bill is needed to protect thousands of women coming to their state for abortion care.
“Illinois is now this island of safety for women who come, by the way, already come from as far as Texas … to get basically health care that they desperately need,” Duckworth said.
She said the bill would also cover access to in vitro fertilisation or birth control.
Last week, President Joe Biden instructed the Department of Justice to find ways to protect anyone seeking to travel to get an abortion.
There are no states that currently ban out-of-state travel for reproductive care, but Missouri is among the first looking to penalize someone for helping anyone cross state lines to get an abortion. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he doubts the state will go further.
“I don’t support penalizing women at all,” he said.
But he was skeptical the Democrats’ bill was constitutional and he said it was politically motivated.
“I suspect that it’s an effort to try and do what they want to do, which is to impose their abortion-on-demand policy,” Hawley said.
A vote was expected Thursday, but without 10 Republicans on board, it was likely to fail.