Bennet, Hickenlooper Effort to Protect Colorado Doctors Providing Abortion Care Blocked by Senate Republicans

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined colleagues to pass the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, a bill to protect doctors providing legal abortion care to out-of-state patients. Today, Senate Republicans blocked the bill’s passage on the Senate floor. 

As Republicans across the country weaken reproductive healthcare, they are also targeting doctors and service providers in states where abortion is legal, like Colorado, and women who travel to receive care. Abortion providers, like Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an abortion provider who is facing legal threats after providing legal abortion care to a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to cross state lines, are facing attacks following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Dr. Bernard’s case is emblematic of the legal threats and intimidation abortion providers across the country are facing.

“Colorado codified the right to choose — and if women travel here for reproductive health care that may be restricted in their home state, our doctors should be able to practice medicine without fear of legal repercussions,” said Bennet. “Our legislation ensures doctors in states like Colorado that have not restricted reproductive health care are not subject to prosecution for doing their jobs.”

“Republican overreach on reproductive rights is affecting doctors in states like Colorado where abortion is still legal,” said Hickenlooper. "Targeting these doctors harms them and the women they treat. We have to prioritize women’s health.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Republican state legislators are drafting legislation that would make it a crime to perform an abortion on a state resident even in another state where abortion is legal. The Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act will ensure that providers in states where abortion remains legal are protected from any efforts to restrict their medical practice or create uncertainty about their legal liability. 

Specifically, the bill will:

  • Protect health care providers in states where abortion is legal from being subject to laws that try to prevent them from providing reproductive health care services or make them liable for providing those services to patients from any other state. These protections could be enforced by a federal lawsuit from the Department of Justice (DOJ), a patient, or a provider, ensuring a future DOJ could not turn a blind eye to state laws that violate these protections;

  • Prohibit any federal funds from being used to pursue legal cases against individuals who access legal reproductive health care services or against health care providers in states where abortion is legal;

  • Create a new grant program at the DOJ to fund legal assistance or legal education for reproductive health care service providers;

  • Create a new grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services to support reproductive health care service providers in obtaining physical, cyber, or data privacy security upgrades necessary to protect their practice and patients; and

  • Protect reproductive health care providers from being denied professional liability insurance coverage because of legal services offered to patients.

The bill text is available HERE

The bill has been endorsed by: Dr. Caitlin Bernard, Physicians for Reproductive Health, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Catholics for Choice, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

“As a full-spectrum OBGYN and abortion provider, I wholeheartedly appreciate the Senate’s effort to create legislation that protects our ability to provide important reproductive healthcare for our patients. I have experienced personal and professional harassment for simply doing my job, including inflammatory and intimidating statements from the highest levels of my home state government and threats of violence from people I have never met. This behavior cannot continue,” said Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who has endorsed the legislation. “Living in a state with one of the highest maternal mortality risks and with a severe shortage of OBGYN specialists, I can say firsthand how much people in my state need the care I and other OBGYNs provide. If we do not stop this state-sanctioned harassment, we will lose OBGYNs and health risks will increase substantially. I stand with our Senators to promote the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act to preserve our ability provide important health services in my home state, including abortion care.”

“Imagine looking someone in the eye and saying: ‘I have all the skills and the tools to help you, but our state’s politicians have told me I can’t,’” said Dr. Nisha Verma with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “As a doctor, I am being forced to grapple with impossible situations more and more–situations where the laws of my state directly violate the medical expertise I gained through years of training and the oath I took to provide the best care to my patients. I am heartbroken that the people in my communities in the South are not able to access the same quality of care as those living in other parts of the country, not because their doctors don’t have the skills or knowledge to provide that care, but because they are prohibited from doing so by abortion bans that are based solely on politics. Politics. Not medicine.”

“Being an abortion provider means being for our communities, supporting them and providing care in the way they want or need. It also means living with the threat of surveillance, harassment, intimidation and violence from those that seek to eliminate abortion access and harm providers of this care. This is our reality,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, an OBGYN and President & CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health. “Considering the long history of harm against abortion providers, I am glad to see Congress introducing the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act. Every person—abortion providers, supporters, staff, every person in our community—deserves support and protection. We deserve to what we are trained to do: provide comprehensive reproductive health care that patients need without bias, shame, or stigma. We deserve to provide this essential health care without violence or harassment.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Bennet remains committed to protecting reproductive rights. This month, Bennet and Hickenlooper introduced the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act to increase access to contraception for service members and veterans.

In July 2022, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their Democratic colleagues urging the VA to begin a rulemaking process to allow the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide abortions. Last month, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to protect the right of individuals to cross state lines for reproductive health care. Bennet and Hickenlooper spoke on the Senate floor in support of this effort.

Bennet and Hickenlooper also introduced legislation to protect and improve access to critical reproductive health care services such as birth control, cancer screenings, and other treatments by providing a strong and consistent funding source for the Title X Family Planning Program. Bennet and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) recently called on the Biden Administration to update the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect the privacy of patients who receive abortions from law enforcement agencies. In June, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their colleagues in urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to take immediate steps to support and protect service members seeking abortion services following the Supreme Court’s dangerous and deeply harmful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.