WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act to protect doctors against Republicans’ non-stop attacks and ensure they can safely provide abortion care in states where it is still legal. This week, the Senators will take to the Senate floor to seek unanimous consent to pass the legislation.
Republicans’ nonstop attacks against women’s reproductive freedom have targeted doctors, with state laws like Texas’ SB8 allowing for anyone to bring a lawsuit against an abortion provider. But in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, these attacks have ramped up—with Republican state legislators drafting legislation that would make it a crime to perform an abortion on a state resident even in another state where abortion is legal. And already, abortion providers are facing non-stop attacks from Republican politicians, including 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. Dr. Bernard’s case is emblematic of what abortion providers across the country are facing, as Republicans lob legal threats and intimidate doctors providing legal abortion care.
The Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act will help protect against these attacks, ensuring that providers in states where abortion remains legal are protected from any efforts to restrict their practice or create uncertainty about their legal liability.
“Doctors shouldn’t be punished for providing their patients with legal abortion care—full stop. The legal threats, the intimidation, and the non-stop attacks from Republicans against abortion providers are unacceptable, and Democrats are fighting back,” said Senator Murray. “This bill is simple: it protects doctors providing legal abortion care, and ensures they can practice medicine and save lives without threat. It’s urgent that we protect the doctors so many women depend on, so this week we’re calling for unanimous consent to get this done—and Republicans will either stand aside so we can pass this bill, or show once and for all that their messaging that they ‘don’t want to punish doctors’ is hollow.”
“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.”
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 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, a patient, or a provider, ensuring a future Department of Justice 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 Department of Justice 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.
In addition to Senators Cardin, Murray, Luján, Padilla, and Rosen, the legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Schumer (D-N.Y.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Markey (D-Mass.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Wyden (D-Ore.), Warren (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Smith (D-Minn.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Reed (D-R.I.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sanders (I-Vt.), and Duckworth (D-Ill.).
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, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and Power to Decide.
Read full text of the legislation here. Read a one-pager here.