WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined 45 members of the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday in introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, federal legislation to guarantee access to abortion, everywhere across the country and restore the right to comprehensive reproductive health care for millions of Americans. The bill’s introduction follows the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which repealed Roe v. Wade. This decision has stripped access to abortion care for millions of Americans and denied individuals the freedom to make their own health care decisions. Since the Dobbs decision, 14 states have already implemented near-total abortion bans, leaving one in three American women without access to safe, legal abortion care. Additionally, state legislatures across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to include medically unnecessary restrictions that limit access to abortion care.
States like Maryland, where the legislature has protected the reproductive rights of our residents, have worked to accommodate individuals unable to get needed health care in their home state. Gov. Wes Moore recently released additional funds authorized by the Maryland General Assembly, to protect and expand essential access to reproductive health care.
The Women’s Health Protection Act creates federal rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access and creates federal protections against medically unnecessary restrictions that undermine Americans’ access to health care and intrude upon personal decision-making.
“For nearly 50 years, the Supreme Court upheld the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade, including its affirmation in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992. Lives were saved and governments were blocked from trying to legislate reproductive choices,” said Senator Cardin. “The Women’s Health Protection Act will return us to a time when Americans are trusted with autonomy over their own personal and health care decisions. This cannot wait.”
“The right-wing-led Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade stripped away the reproductive rights of millions of women across America, threatening their health – and in some cases their lives. This is unacceptable. We need to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe and guarantee a woman’s right to choose as a matter of law nationwide,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Right now, in Wisconsin and across the country, Americans are being denied their right to control their bodies, families, and futures. In Wisconsin, women are living in 1849, where a near-total abortion ban that pre-dates the Civil War is in effect that is putting women’s health and well-being in jeopardy,” said Senator Baldwin. “Every American deserves the freedom to make their own health care decisions without interference from politicians, and Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree. The Women’s Health Protection Act is a necessary step to restore Americans’ constitutional right to choose what’s best for their families and allow doctors to do the job they are trained to do – all free from medically unnecessary restrictions.”
“The Women’s Health Protection Act would reverse the death sentence handed down to American women when the Supreme Court overturned fifty years of precedent in Roe. The heart of the Women’s Health Protection Act is reproductive justice – the fundamental right to safely choose if or when to have children, and the freedom to make that choice no matter who you are or where you live,” said Senator Blumenthal. “It will reverse the draconian and devastating bans and restrictions that fall on all women, and disproportionately on Black and Latina people, individuals with lower incomes, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and so many others who face barriers to care. This issue is about more than health care; it is about women’s rights, individual rights, and human rights.”
Following the Dobbs decision in June of last year, millions of Americans are unable to make their own health care decisions. Patients are being denied or delayed access to necessary and potentially life-saving treatment, including for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage management, because of new legal risks to providers. And, the harms caused by these abortion restrictions fall heaviest on populations that already experience inequities, including people with low incomes, people of color, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities, and those living in rural and other medically underserved areas.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would:
- Prohibit states from imposing restrictions that jeopardize access to abortion earlier in pregnancy, including many of the state-level restrictions in place prior to Dobbs, such as arbitrary waiting periods, medically unnecessary mandatory ultrasounds, or requirements to provide medically inaccurate information.
- Ensure that later in pregnancy, states cannot limit access to abortion if it would jeopardize the life or health of the mother.
- Protect the ability to travel out of state for an abortion, which has become increasingly common in recent years.
A full list of co-sponsors and a copy of the bill text is available here.
A one-pager on the bill is available here.