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US Sen. Hirono introduces legislation to protect doctors from anti-abortion attacks

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File screen shot: During a speech on the US Senate floor May 9, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) advocated for abortion rights.

Today, US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawai’i and four other Senate Democrats introduced the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, which would protect doctors against attacks and ensure they can safely provide abortion care in states like Hawai’i where it is still legal.

The legislation would protect providers in states where abortion remains legal from any efforts to restrict their practice or create uncertainty about their legal liability.

This week, Senators Hirono, Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) will take to the Senate floor to seek unanimous consent to pass the legislation.

“Republicans will stop at nothing to block people from accessing critical reproductive care, and now they’re trying to put health care providers in jail simply for doing their jobs,” Sen. Hirono said. “I will continue to fight to protect the rights of all individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and their futures.”

Attacks against women’s reproductive freedom have long targeted doctors, with state laws like Texas’ SB8 allowing for anyone to bring a lawsuit against an abortion provider.

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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.

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In Sen. Hirono’s news release, it states that abortion providers — including Dr. Caitlin Bernard, 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 “non-stop attacks from Republican politicians.”

“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 calls for:

  • Protecting 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.
  • Prohibiting 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.
  • Creating a new grant program at the Department of Justice to fund legal assistance or legal education for reproductive health care service providers.
  • Creating 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.
  • Protecting reproductive health care providers from being denied professional liability insurance coverage because of legal services offered to patients.
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In addition to Senators Hirono, Murray, Luján, Padilla, and Rosen, the legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

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.

The full text of the legislation can be found here. A one-page synopsis is available here.

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