GOP Sen. James Lankford Blocks Bill Protecting Right To Interstate Travel For Abortion

Sen. James Lankford vetoed Democratic legislation that would have protected the freedom to move between states to access abortion care in the Senate on Thursday (R-Okla.).

Lankford, who is in favour of enacting a national ban on abortion, deemed it superfluous.

“No state has outlawed adult women seeking abortions from travelling across state lines. This appears to be a simple attempt at agitation and speculation, he said.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) proposed the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act earlier this week in an effort to define the freedom to travel across state lines in order to access treatments for reproductive health. Additionally, it would give the U.S. attorney general and those who might be harmed the ability to file civil cases against anyone who tries to limit that freedom.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh attempted to minimize the effect of the decision in states where abortion is currently illegal by writing that the “constitutional right to interstate travel” would allow women to “travel to another state to obtain an abortion” in his concurrence to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 50-year precedent that established a national right to an abortion.

The U.S. Constitution does not, however, specifically mention the word “travel” like it does “abortion.” It is an enumerated constitutional right protected by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. On this front, Kavanaugh also seems to be acting alone. In the Dobbs majority, only he and one other justice concurred.

Democrats and pro-choice organizations worry that Republican-run states may take advantage of this weakness and take action to restrict travel and make it illegal to traverse state lines in search of abortion services. Republicans in several states and anti-abortion organizations have already hinted that’s where they want to go next.

The Republican attorney general of Indiana announced on Wednesday that his office intended to look into the Indiana physician who assisted a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled over state lines to get an abortion.

Conservatives have also threatened employers who go forward with plans to fund their workers’ travel costs for out-of-state abortions with criminal penalties or with efforts to remove their tax incentives. Numerous large corporations, including Amazon, Disney, Apple, and JPMorgan, have made this commitment.

In addition to protecting women and granting them the freedom to travel to states like Nevada for essential reproductive health care, Cortez Masto told HuffPost, “it is crucial that we also protect providers as well as those large companies and employers who want to help women receive this reproductive care.”

Republicans counter that this is all a manufactured problem, downplaying the threat to Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court overturned it and likely supporting a national ban on abortion if it goes before the Senate.

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Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) told HuffPost, “I think it’s a bill that’s in search of a problem.” “I don’t see any justification for it, and I don’t think there are any real individuals out there who want to jail women for getting an abortion while crossing state lines.”

Sen. John Cornyn stated that the Constitution already provides protection for it (R-Texas).

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) asserted that the legislation would encourage “abortion tourism” and “defend the avarice of woke businesses” who have promised to pay for their employees’ travel expenses.

Similar legislation is anticipated to be passed by Democrats in the House on Friday. It’s unclear if or when Democrats in the Senate will attempt to pass the bill by a recorded vote, a longer procedure. Currently, the Democratic leadership is concentrating on passing a domestic spending bill and a plan to support the semiconductor industry.

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