Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana blocked Democrats' attempt Wednesday to pass legislation that would protect doctors who provide legal abortion care from right-wing threats and attacks.
The effort to pass the bill by unanimous consent came as GOP officials in Indiana continue to target a physician in the state for providing abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio, where abortion is prohibited after six weeks of pregnancy.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the lead sponsor of the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, specifically mentioned the case of Dr. Caitlin Bernard in a floor speech on Wednesday, calling it "chilling." Bernard is currently being investigated by Indiana's attorney general.
"While Dr. Bernard's story may be in headlines across the country, she is not the only doctor facing threats, and she will not be the last," Murray warned. "At this very moment, Republican state lawmakers are drafting legislation that would make it a crime to provide abortion care to a resident even in another state where it's legal. From talking with doctors back home, I can tell you they are following this closely, and they are worried."
According to a summary released by Murray's office, the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act would:
- Protect healthcare 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;
- Prohibit any federal funds from being used to pursue legal cases against individuals who access legal reproductive healthcare services or against healthcare providers in states where abortion is legal;
- Create a new grant program at the Department of Justice to fund legal assistance or legal education for reproductive healthcare service providers;
- Create 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; and
- Protect reproductive health care providers from being denied professional liability insurance coverage because of legal services offered to patients.
Planned Parenthood Action said the bill poses a "very simple" question to lawmakers: "Should doctors be allowed to provide healthcare?"
While the answer should be obvious, the group said, Braun showed that the Republican Party's opposition to reproductive care runs deep.
"No provider should face prosecution for providing basic, time-sensitive, essential, legal healthcare, including abortion," the group said.
After Braun objected to Murray's request for unanimous consent to pass the bill, the Washington senator vowed that Democrats will continue to "fight for the right to an abortion" and for "doctors who are doing their jobs and doing what is best for their patients."
"We're going to make sure everyone knows, and no one forgets, exactly who's standing in the way, exactly where Republicans stand in this fight," added Murray, who last month attempted to swiftly pass legislation protecting the right of pregnant people to travel across state lines for abortion care.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., blocked the bill.