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Cortez Masto bill aims to protect right to travel for abortion

Updated July 13, 2022 - 9:20 am

WASHINGTON — Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada introduced legislation Tuesday that would outlaw bans on women traveling to states where abortion is legal in order to undergo the procedure.

Cortez Masto, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, was joined by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., at a news conference to outline the bill and its protections following a Supreme Court ruling last month that overturned the right to an abortion.

Since the ruling, some states have enacted outright bans on abortion, and some have discussed a ban on traveling to other states to obtain an abortion.

“For years extreme activists on the right have been working to eliminate the right to choose, and they are winning,” Cortez Masto told the news conference.

Cortez Masto said the legislative bans and restrictions in other states is having “chilling effect in my state,” where doctors and medical staff are concerned that they could be subjected to prosecution under laws passed in other states.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Murray, a Democratic leadership member, said the Senate could move to the bill as soon as Thursday.

So far, no Republican senator has co-sponsored the legislation.

Filibuster hurdle to passage

It’s unlikely the bill will get the 60 votes needed to overcome a parliamentary hurdle ending debate.

By the same measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was doubtful that Republicans could muster the 60 votes to clear the same hurdle and pass a federal abortion ban if the GOP takes control of the Senate after the midterm elections.

But McConnell shepherded the three recent conservative justices onto the Supreme Court who voted to overturn the 1973 landmark case, Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to an abortion.

Abortion has emerged as a top political issue in the upcoming midterm elections, where control of both the Senate and House are at stake.

Republicans, including Cortez Masto’s GOP challenger, Adam Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general, praised the Supreme Court decision.

Partisan issue

The abortion issue largely cuts along partisan lines.

The Senate bill, or Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act, would give the U.S. attorney general, as well as individuals, the ability to bring civil action against those who restrict a woman’s right to cross state lines to receive an abortion.

A similar bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas. The legislation has a growing number of Democratic co-sponsors who include Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Susie Lee, both D-Nev.

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., has denounced the Supreme Court ruling. A call to his office about the House bill was not returned.

Joining fellow Republicans, Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada said the Supreme Court correctly give authority over abortion back to the states.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department also announced Tuesday the creation of a Reproductive Rights Task Force to monitor and review state laws and enforcement that infringe on a woman’s access to abortion in states that permit the procedure.

Still, President Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass legislation that restores a legal right to abortion, which was the law of the land for 50 years after Roe was decided.

Conservatives on the Supreme Court struck down that ruling 18 days ago in a 6-3 decision that left abortion regulations to individual states.

Nevada codified the right to an abortion in 1990. And the procedure is legal in many liberal-leaning states.

But Cortez Masto noted that the procedure is banned, or will soon be banned in 18 states, many of those controlled by conservative state legislatures and governors. As a result, she said Nevada has already seen an influx of women coming to the state for the procedure.

Nevada is not alone.

Many women are exhausting their savings and traveling long distances to reach medical professionals in states, like New York, where reproductive care is protected, Gillibrand said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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