The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act Would Shield From Prosecution Individuals Who Leave Their State For Reproductive Care
Washington, D.C. — Today on the Senate floor, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet urged his Senate colleagues to pass the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act to protect the right of individuals to cross state lines for reproductive health care. Following Bennet’s speech, Republican senators blocked passage of the bill.
“It wasn't enough to strip women of this fundamental right and have the states force them to bring a pregnancy to term. That's not enough,” said Bennet in his speech of Republican state legislators attempting to prosecute individuals for seeking out-of-state reproductive care. “Now they want to use the law to prevent her from traveling from one state to another in the United States of America.”
Bennet continued: “I can't believe this is what we're handing over to the next generation of Americans. I can't believe it…this is despicable, especially coming from the same people who can never stop telling us how devoted they are to freedom and liberty. What a lie that is.”
“I am so grateful to live in a state like Colorado…where we have already codified a woman's right to an abortion…We understand, and we have always as a state understood, that protecting a woman's personal liberty to make these decisions is fundamental to her freedom to participate in our society,” said Bennet. “And if people from other states need to come to Colorado to access the care they need, Congress has the obligation to shield them from prosecution. And we need to make sure that health care providers, no matter where they are – Colorado and other states – are safe from prosecution.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization which allows states to limit access to reproductive health care, this legislation would clarify that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for these services. It would also empower the U.S. Attorney General and impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict the right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.
Additionally, this legislation would protect health care providers in pro-choice states like Colorado from prosecution and lawsuits for serving individuals traveling from other states.
Bennet’s full speech is available HERE. A full transcript is available below.
I thank the senior Senator from Minnesota for her remarks and for what brings us to the floor today.
This is the first time in American history, Madam President, that a fundamental Constitutional right has been stripped away from the American people, and especially American women, by the Supreme Court of the United States.
In Dobbs, the United States Supreme Court demolished 50 years of precedent. Half a century of Democratic- and Republican-appointed justices upholding a constitutional right to privacy that has now been obliterated by the United States Supreme Court. A fundamental right that has been upheld over and over again by justices appointed, as I said, by…presidents on both sides of the aisle.
Madam President, if you had said to me when I was in law school in the early 90s that this day would ever come, that the United States Supreme Court, using a radical – a radical – method of constitutional interpretation called originalism – that was invented basically when I was in law school – if you had told me that there would’ve been a President of the United States who would appoint a majority of the Supreme Court with that radical interpretation, I would never have believed it.
I would never have believed it.
And that’s what’s happened because of the justices Donald Trump put on the Supreme Court. And I want people to hear me – [people] that are Republicans in this country [and] in this chamber – look it up.
I know it’s called originalism, but it started in the 1980s and started in the 1990s. It’s not the way our Constitution has been interpreted all these years. This is radical. It is not conservative. In no sense is this a conservative decision, and it’s happened.
And now Americans no longer have a Constitutional right to privacy to make their own health and reproductive choices.
And I can tell you, I read every one of these opinions. And in Justice Alito’s opinion for the majority, he never even had the courage to grapple with the nature of this fundamental right – what stripping it away would mean for millions of Americans, and especially millions of American women like my three daughters.
Instead what he said was, what he wrote was, if it wasn’t a right in 1868, it’s not a right today.
That was the depth of his analysis – [an] opinion dripping with hostility and a cavalier attitude toward what he was stripping away from the American people.
I know I live in a state where there are people that hold very sincere beliefs on both sides of this question. This is a question that’s hard for many Americans.
And that’s why I have always believed the right place for this decision to be made is by a woman with her doctor – not by the state. Not by a state saying you have to carry your pregnancy to term without any regard for the individual circumstances that you might face.
And instead, as a result of this Court’s decision, Madam President, state laws to ban abortion that are literally from the 1800s are coming back into being.
Politicians are writing new state laws to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, as I said, without exceptions. Think about that.
Even for women and children who've been raped, like that 10-year-old girl in Ohio who had to travel to Indiana for abortion. She's living in a state where they're talking about passing a personhood bill.
Soldiers serving – and I have heard in my own state from women who have served in the Armed Forces, who are worried about women who are serving us in the Armed Forces today on U.S. military bases in states like Mississippi that have banned abortion.
What's supposed to happen to them? What's happened to their right to privacy? Even if we paid for them to travel, everybody's going to know what's going on.
Pregnant women could easily find themselves in America today in an emergency room with life-threatening complications. It happens literally every single day – every day, with doctors unable to help because somebody has to go and consult a lawyer.
Doctors afraid to prescribe medications for their patients or even have a conversation about their reproductive health for fear of prosecution.
All over this country, there are elected leaders, so-called leaders, politicians, that are putting themselves between a woman and her right to choose.
Nothing I am saying here is fantastic. Everything I am saying here is being talked about, contemplated, legislated in America today, all across this country as a result of what the Supreme Court has done.
A woman with cancer could learn she's pregnant, happens every day – every day – and learn she can't get the treatment she needs for her cancer.
This is literally crazy. It is literally crazy.
But as you've heard on the floor today, this isn't even crazy enough for some of these elected politicians around the country.
Now they're threatening to use the law to prevent women – American citizens – from exercising their right to travel across state lines to access reproductive health care in the United States of America.
It wasn't enough to strip women of this fundamental right and have the states force them to bring a pregnancy to term. That's not enough. Now they want to use the law to prevent her from traveling from one state to another in the United States of America.
I see the pages sitting here today, who are the age of my daughter, one of them, who's 17 years old.
I can't believe this is what we're handing over to the next generation of Americans. I can't believe it. I cannot believe it.
This is despicable, especially coming from the same people who can never stop telling us how devoted they are to freedom and liberty. What a lie that is. What a lie that is.
I am coming to the end. I know that my colleague from Georgia – or from Oregon – is next, but I just want to say one last thing.
I am so grateful to live in a state like Colorado, a Western, purple state, where we have already codified a woman's right to an abortion. A woman's right to choose.
We understand, and we have always as a state understood, that protecting a woman's personal liberty to make these decisions is fundamental to her freedom to participate in our society.
And if people from other states need to come to Colorado to access the care they need, Congress has the obligation to shield them from prosecution.
And we need to make sure that health care providers, no matter where they are – Colorado and other states – are safe from prosecution, to say nothing of the women themselves, to say nothing of teenage girls themselves.
I can't believe we're even having this conversation on the floor of the United States Senate. I can't believe it.
But that's the America we live in now because of this Supreme Court. Because of this radical ideology that they have perpetrated.
And that's why I strongly, strongly support this bill from my colleague from Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto. On behalf of my three daughters, I want to thank her for her invaluable leadership on this issue.Mr. President, I yield the floor.