The past few months have seen a dangerous trend of restrictive legislation creeping up across the country. In states like Alabama and Missouri, access to safe, legal abortions is going to become much more difficult, if not impossible, in the coming months, thanks to new legislation that's been passed. Legislation that could be passed in more states if some form of protections aren't put in place soon. And that's exactly why the Women's Health Protection Act, an abortion rights bill that was reintroduced into Congress on Thursday, is so vitally important to support. In fact, it could be one of the only ways to guarantee access to abortion care in the country, regardless of which state you happen to be living in, remains safe and legal.
The Women's Health Protection Act was reintroduced for consideration on Thursday, May 23, by Rep. Judy Chu of California and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. If passed, the legislation would "prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors have deemed unnecessary or preventing doctors from prescribing and dispensing medication as is medically appropriate."
The federal bill reads, "The Women’s Health Protection Act creates federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and intrude upon personal decision-making. It promotes and protects a woman’s individual constitutional rights, no matter where she lives."
As it stands right now, a woman's access to a safe, legal abortion absolutely depends on where she lives, despite the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 that every woman has a fundamental right to have an abortion.
If passed, the Women's Health Protection Act would offer basic health care and abortion access to women across the country and limit the ability of individual states to pile on extra restrictions for abortion care. Restrictions like forcing mandatory counseling on people before they are able to have an abortion as was legislated in 18 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and then forcing a woman to wait 24 hours after counseling to access their procedure.
This legislation is necessary, as 338 new abortion restrictions were passed in states between 2010 and 2016, according to the Guttmacher Institute. And with the political climate appearing to lean heavily into anti-abortion laws like those passed in Alabama and possibly about to pass in Missouri, according to USA Today, this number doesn't look to change for the better any time soon.
Essentially, the Women's Health Care Act would, as explained by Act For Women, stop politicians from being able to create extra regulations that "grossly exceed" patient care requirements in an effort to close abortion clinics or restrict a woman's access to abortion medication in the early weeks of pregnancy. It would also stop politicians from enforcing waiting periods prior to their procedure barring any medical reason.
This bill was first introduced into Congress in 2013 and has been reintroduced in every Congressional session since then, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Clearly it has never been passed, but now is the time.
"In the last few weeks we have seen unconstitutional measures restricting access to abortion care move forward in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and Missouri. As a physician who provides abortion care in Texas, I have seen first-hand how politically motivated restrictions on abortion hurt people," Dr. Bhavik Kumar, board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. "The Women’s Health Protection Act would put a stop to these dangerous attacks. It would cement access to comprehensive reproductive care for all women, from California to Texas to New York, and put patients, not politicians, first."
In a press conference on Thursday, where he was urging men to get involved in this important fight as well, Sen. Blumenthal shared a similar sentiment of the legislation's urgency. "We face a five-alarm fire in the danger to women’s reproductive rights. We need to command the urgency and immediacy that all of our lives are at risk," he said, as HuffPost reported.
If you want to see this federal bill protecting reproductive rights across the country passed, let your representative know. The clock is ticking. Reproductive rights are slowing getting stripped away and action is needed to ensure they are protected.