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Democrats Introduce Bills to Protect Abortion Travelers, Contraception Access

The right is seeking to limit abortion travel and bar contraception access in the wake of “Dobbs v. Jackson.”

A group of abortion rights activists march from the U.S. Supreme Court to the House of Representatives office buildings on Capitol Hill on July 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

House Democrats have introduced two bills that would take action to protect access to reproductive health care as the far right assaults abortion rights and, potentially, contraception access for millions of people across the U.S.

Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) and Marilyn Strickland (D-Washington) introduced a bill on Thursday safeguarding people’s right to travel across state lines in order to obtain an abortion. The bill would prohibit people from attempting to use state law to restrict or impede an abortion seeker traveling across state lines, a person aiding them in their travel, or a health care provider performing the medical procedure.

Far right politicians in states like Texas are in the process of drafting legislation to ban people from traveling for abortion care. The Biden administration has vowed to fight such laws, saying that they impede upon people’s right to freely travel across the U.S., but the Democrats’ bill would give the federal government an explicit directive to bring civil action against people found in violation of the law. It would also give people who were harmed in the violation of the law the ability to obtain relief through legal actions.

“Lawmakers in several states, including my home state of Texas, are now threatening to interfere with the constitutional right of Americans to travel freely and voluntarily within the United States for the purpose of obtaining abortion care. These efforts violate the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens,” Fletcher said in a statement. “These efforts to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights must be stopped, and Congress has the power and the responsibility to do so.”

Also on Thursday, Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Mike Thompson (D-California) introduced a bill that would codify the right to contraception into law. The bill would ban states from restricting access to contraceptives in any way, and would allow the Department of Justice to bring civil action against those found in violation of the law. It would protect access to a wide range of contraceptives, including IUDs, condoms and emergency medication like Plan B.

“When it comes to our reproductive freedom, it is clear that this right-wing, extremist Supreme Court will not stop at stripping us of our right to safe and legal abortion,” Jayapal said in a statement. “It is incumbent on us to ensure that our right to reproductive health care remains protected.”

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning the federal right to abortion access, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Court should also soon examine the right to gay marriage and access to contraception, as protected under Obergefell v. Hodges and Griswold v. Connecticut, respectively.

In an explicitly Christofascist move, Republicans are already looking to ban contraception, falsely and cruelly claiming that methods of contraception are equivalent to abortifacients. While access to both contraception and abortifacients is crucial to a safe and just health care system, contraceptives are very much not abortifacients, as they all work to preempt conception in some way.

A new executive order by President Joe Biden will help protect birth control access and the right to seek an out-of-state abortion, and convene pro bono legal resources to defend abortion seekers and providers. While this executive order may provide legal cover for people while Biden is president, codifying congressional Democrats’ bills into law would provide a more permanent solution that would be harder to overturn if a Republican were to win the presidency in 2024.

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