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Lankford

U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) participates in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee mark up on May 03, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

'They Want to Hold Women Captive': GOP Blocks Bill Protecting Right to Travel for Abortion

"By objecting to this bill, Republicans are rejecting any appearance of fighting for people's rights, and embracing all-out oppression of women like never before," said Sen. Patty Murray.

Jessica Corbett

Democratic leaders and reproductive rights advocates swiftly blasted anti-choice Republican lawmakers on Thursday after U.S. Sen. James Lankford blocked a bill intended to protect the right of pregnant people across the country to travel for abortion services.

The GOP senator from Oklahoma—which banned nearly all abortions this year even before the Roe v. Wade reversal—objected to Democrats' effort to pass by unanimous consent the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022.

Introduced this week by Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), the bill would make clear that patients can cross state lines for abortion care and empower the U.S. attorney general and affected individuals to take legal action against those who attempt to restrict that right.

While Lankford took action to block the bill, its sponsors and other supporters emphasized that his party is behind the ongoing and sweeping assault on reproductive rights on a national scale.

Murray took aim at her GOP colleagues on the Senate floor, declaring that "Republican lawmakers 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."

"It's disgraceful that anyone would object to making sure people can travel to other states for reproductive healthcare," she added in a statement. "It's morally repugnant. By objecting to this bill, Republicans are rejecting any appearance of fighting for people's rights, and embracing all-out oppression of women like never before."

Cortez Masto similarly said that "by objecting to my legislation, they're allowing state legislators to reach across state lines to control not just what happens in their states, but what happens in every state across this country and to punish women for exercising their fundamental rights. It's absolutely outrageous."

President Joe Biden also called out the Republican Party for Lankford's move:

Right-wing groups and state lawmakers are already working on legislation to try to stop residents of states hostile to abortion rights from traveling for care.

"Anti-choice state legislators in Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas have said they want to pass bills to fine or prosecute women who travel for healthcare, providers who offer abortion services, and the many employers who have said they will support their employees who need to seek reproductive care in another state," noted Cortez Masto on the Senate floor.

"These bills are blatantly unconstitutional," she added. "And merely proposing them has created profound uncertainty for patients, healthcare providers, insurers, and employers across the country."

Cortez Masto's legislation was endorsed by various rights organizations including the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women's Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Despite the bill's defeat on Thursday, Cortez Masto vowed that "I won't stop fighting for women's freedom."


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