POLITICS

Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill To Protect Abortion Access Nationwide

The Women’s Health Protection Act would reaffirm every woman's right to an abortion, no matter where she lives.

A bill that would protect abortion access across the country was reintroduced to Congress on Thursday by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The Women’s Health Protection Act would bar states from imposing restrictions on abortion that are medically unnecessary and interfere with a woman’s ability to access care. The bill was first introduced in 2013 and has been reintroduced in each congressional session since.

“We face a five-alarm fire in the danger to women’s reproductive rights,” Blumenthal said at a news conference Thursday, urging men to get involved. “We need to command the urgency and immediacy that all of our lives are at risk.”

The legislation has 42 co-sponsors in the Senate and 171 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. All seven senators running for president have signed onto the bill.

States have for years been passing burdensome restrictions on abortion, such as forcing women to undergo mandatory counseling before the procedure or requiring providers to perform tests that doctors have deemed unnecessary. 

States enacted 338 new abortion restrictions between 2010 and 2016, according to a Guttmacher Institute report. In effect, whether a person can access a safe abortion in a timely fashion often depends entirely on where they live.  

Lourdes Rivera, senior vice president at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the goal of the WHPA is to ensure that everyone, no matter their zip code, can access legal abortion.

“In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized the right to abortion as a fundamental liberty, protected under the 14th Amendment,” she said. “But that right has not been equally realized across the U.S. because of the layer upon layer of restrictions that have been introduced by state houses across the country. The Women’s Health Protection Act is going to address this inequality of access.”

The bill would ban prohibitions on abortion prior to fetal viability, which would include so-called “fetal heartbeat” bills, which have passed in a handful of states this year. It would also ban restrictions on abortion that single out abortion services or makes abortion services more difficult to access without advancing women’s health or improving safety. 

This article has been updated with details about the bill’s support and sponsorship. 

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