Senators Seek to Offset Travel Expenses for Reproductive Health
WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in the Senate last week would provide grants to organizations, including abortion funding, to offset the state-imposed costs on women who now need to travel to meet their reproductive health needs.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is the latest effort to deal with the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs. V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, and tighter restrictions of abortion passed in several Republican-controlled states in that ruling’s aftermath.
“In overturning Roe and passing one extreme state abortion ban after the next, Republicans have unleashed a full-fledged health care crisis that is jeopardizing women’s health and forcing them to stay pregnant against their will,” Murray said.
“This moment calls for bold solutions — and that’s why I’ve proposed creating a new, historic abortion fund and why I’m proud to cosponsor Sen. Baldwin’s bill to help get women the abortion care they need,” Murray continued.
“Every woman deserves to have control over her own body and be able to get the care she needs — no matter what state she lives in — and that’s what this proposal will help deliver.”
Baldwin said she cosponsored the bill because “for too many, the cost of travel, child care, overnight housing and time away from work puts safe, comprehensive reproductive care totally out of reach.
“By reducing the costs of travel for people seeking reproductive care, more Americans will be able to make the health care decisions that are best for their family, health and future,” she said.
The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act would set up a grant program, authorized at $350 million per year for FY23 through FY27, to help ease the financial burden associated with traveling long distances to access safe and legal reproductive health care.
Specifically, the bill would allow the Treasury secretary to award grants to eligible entities to pay for travel-related expenses and logistical support for individuals accessing abortion services.
Funds, made available through a competitive grant, could be used for round-trip travel, lodging, meals, child care, translation services, doula care, and patient education and information services.
Eligible entities include nonprofits or community-based organizations that assist individuals seeking abortions. Grants would be prioritized for entities that serve people who live in a jurisdiction that has banned or severely restricted access to abortion, serve those who travel to a jurisdiction to access abortion care or have a program in operation that helps patients access abortion services.
“Access to safe and legal reproductive health care, including abortion, should not be limited to those with the resources to travel. Blocking access to this life-saving care disproportionately impacts low-income families, women of color and so many more underrepresented communities,” said Rep. Marilyn Strickland, D-Wash., who authored the House version of the Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act.
“I want to thank Sen. Baldwin for her partnership in working to ensure equitable access to reproductive health care for all women regardless of where they live.”
In addition to Sens. Baldwin and Murray, the Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act is cosponsored by Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.,Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.