Emotion fueled a debate on the Senate floor on Thursday as Republicans objected to taking up a Democratic bill that would guarantee a woman’s constitutional right to travel across state lines to receive abortion care.
The Democratic bill, called the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022 was introduced earlier this week by Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The bill would additionally protect providers in states that support abortion rights from lawsuits for helping women from other states.
Murray, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said GOP lawmakers across the nation “have already set their sights on ripping away the right to travel.”
“Let’s be really clear what that means: They want to hold women captive in their own states,” she said. “They want to punish women and anyone who might help them for exercising their constitutional right to travel within our country to get the services that they need in another state. I hope everyone really observes how extreme and how radical and how un-American that is.”
Sen. Steve Daines, Republican from Montana, argued the Senate must reject this “radical” bill because it would “give fly-in abortionists free rein to commit abortions on demand.” He also argued it “protects the greed, frankly, of woke corporations who see it as cheaper to pay for an abortion and abortion tourism than maternity leave for their employees.”
Cortez Masto, who made the unanimous consent request to bring up the legislation, pointed to examples of lawmakers in states like Missouri, Texas and Arkansas who have said “they want to pass bills to fine or prosecute women who travel for health care.”
What GOP legislators are proposing to do across the country to restrict women from traveling for reproductive care is “just blatantly unconstitutional,” she continued. “They are anti-woman, anti-business and anti-provider,” she said.
Sen. James Lankford, Republican from Oklahoma, who objected to the request, said in remarks on the Senate floor that the conversation is “not just about the right to travel and the right to health care it’s deeper than that, it’s the right to live.”
“To be very clear, no state has banned interstate travel for adult women seeking to obtain an abortion,” Lankford added. “No state has done that. Now, am I confident there are some people that are out there talking? Yes, but there’s also in this Senate 5,000 bills that have been filed and how many of them are actually going to move? As it is in every legislature across the country and everyone in this body knows it.”
Lankford said Democrats are just trying to “inflame” and “raise the what ifs.”
Cortez Masto said, “all my legislation says is: Respect my state. We are a choice state. We’ve made that decision as a state and if women want to travel to my state to seek services, and my providers want to provide those services, and employers want to help women travel then let the states do that.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.