Senators Baldwin, Murray introduce reproductive health travel act
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAW) - On Thursday, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act, legislation to provide women the support they need to access reproductive health services by providing grants to organizations, including abortion funds, to offset the cost of travel-related expenses.
“Right now in states across the country, Americans are unable to make their own health care decisions,” says Sen. Baldwin. “Women in states like Wisconsin are being forced to travel out of state just to see a doctor for critical health care, including abortion. And for too many, the cost of travel, child care, overnight housing, and time away from work puts safe, comprehensive reproductive care totally out of reach. By reducing the costs of travel for people seeking reproductive care, more Americans will be able to make the health care decisions that are best for their family, health, and future.”
“Every woman deserves to have control over her own body and be able to get the care she needs, no matter what state she lives in, and that’s what this proposal will help deliver,” says Sen. Murray.
The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act would set up a grant program, authorized at $350 million per year from 2023-2027, to help ease the financial burden associated with traveling long distances to access safe and legal reproductive health care. Specifically, the bill would allow the Treasury Secretary to award grants to eligible entities to pay for travel-related expenses and logistical support for individuals accessing abortion services.
Grants would be prioritized for entities that serve people who live in a jurisdiction that has banned or severely restricted access to abortion, serve those who travel to a jurisdiction to access abortion care, or have a program in operation that helps patients access abortion services.
“Abortion funds play a critical role in connecting patients like mine with the resources they need to get abortions,” says Dr. Kristin Lyerly, Board Certified OB/GYN from Green Bay. “As a physician who provides comprehensive care in obstetrics and gynecology including abortion, I’m grateful to Senator Tammy Baldwin for her leadership in helping to break down the barriers that exist for patients in abortion-restricted states and for building on the existing infrastructure of support that abortion funds provide.”
“Prior to Dobbs, Wisconsinites already faced too many barriers to accessing comprehensive pregnancy care, including abortion care. Post-Dobbs, accessing that care now requires leaving our state. As an OBGYN who provides full-scope pregnancy care, it feels unconscionable to have to send my patients across state lines to obtain the health care they need,” says Dr. Abby Cutler, Board-Certified OB/GYN in Madison.
“The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision exacerbated an existing abortion access crisis across the country, leaving many people unable to access care unless they travel hundreds of miles to a state where abortion is legal,” says Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL.
“With no in-clinic abortion care available in Wisconsin since June 24, Wisconsinites are forced to travel out-of-state for abortion care,” says Lucy Marshall, Board President of WMF. “The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act would help provide necessary funding for abortion care, as well as expenses related to traveling for such care. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a human right. Nobody should be denied health care, and this bill would provide funding that is crucial at this point in this crisis.”
“As a physician in Wisconsin, I have seen firsthand the detrimental impact the Dobbs decision has had on my patients’ ability to access health care. Abortion bans are forcing women to travel sometimes hundreds of miles across state lines or remain pregnant against their will,” says Allie Linton MD MPH, Associate Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
“Access to safe and legal reproductive health care, including abortion, should not be limited to those with the resources to travel. Blocking access to this life-saving care disproportionately impacts low-income families, women of color, and so many more underrepresented communities,” says Washington Representative Marilyn Strickland, who authored the House version of the Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act which was introduced in July.
In addition to Senators Baldwin and Murray, the Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act is co-sponsored by senators from Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Hawaii.
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