April 27, 2023

Duckworth, Durbin Help Reintroduce Legislation to Ensure Doctors Can Provide Legal Abortion Care, Protect Providers from Out of State Extremists


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in reintroducing legislation to help protect abortion providers in states like Illinois—where abortion remains legal—from Republican attempts to restrict their practice and create uncertainty about their legal liability. The Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Healthcare Act would help ensure that doctors can continue to safely provide legal abortion care and protect healthcare providers from being held liable for providing services to patients from other states. 

“In this post-Dobbs world, Illinois is proud to remain a safe haven for reproductive rights where women—regardless of their zip code—can get the healthcare they need when they need it,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senators Durbin and Murray in introducing legislation to protect doctors working in states like Illinois from Republican efforts to throw them in jail for performing basic medical procedures that are in the best interest of their patient’s health, family and life.” 

“Doctors should be focused on providing their patients with the best health care possible, not the fear that they will be prosecuted for doing their jobs.  And patients deserve medical providers who will give them sound, science-based advice and care,” said Durbin. “Yet, after the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade and with it, the right to reproductive freedom, Republican legislatures have pushed to restrict access and threaten doctors providing abortion care, with no regard for women’s lives.  I signed onto the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act because Republicans have no right to legislate women’s bodies or restrict doctors from providing essential care.” 

“MAGA Republicans’ nonstop attacks on a woman’s right to choose have created a climate of fear, confusion, and suffering—and have had a chilling effect on the lifesaving work abortion providers do even in states where abortion remains legal,” said Senator Murray. “Our bill is a necessary and commonsense step to protect doctors providing legal abortion care and ensure that doctors in states like Washington can continue to provide essential care without being threatened with jail time or lawsuits by out-of-state extremists.” 

“Whether or not to become a mother is the most important decision a woman ever makes. As a doctor, I understand the immense health risks that come with a pregnancy and know that access to reproductive health care is an essential part of women’s health,” said Rep. Schrier. “In the past year, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, millions of women have had the right to choose stripped away. Now, certain states are taking it a step further by targeting health care professionals who practice in states where abortion is still legal. This bill protects women and doctors from unjust prosecution and ensures that patients and their doctors are the ones making personal medical decisions, not the government.” 

The Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Healthcare Act would help ensure that providers in states where abortion remains legal are protected from any efforts to restrict their practice or create uncertainty about their legal liability. Specifically, the bill would help: 

  • Protect healthcare providers in states where abortion is legal from being subject to laws that try to prevent them from providing reproductive healthcare 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 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a patient or a provider, ensuring a future DOJ 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 DOJ to fund legal assistance or legal education for reproductive healthcare service providers; 
  • Create a new grant program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support reproductive healthcare service providers in obtaining physical, cyber or data privacy security upgrades necessary to protect their practice and patients; and 
  • Protect reproductive healthcare providers from being denied professional liability insurance coverage solely because of legal health services offered to patients. 

Along with Duckworth, Durbin and Murray, the legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

In the House, the legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA-08) and co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA-06), Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA-25) and Yadira Caraveo, M.D. (CO-08). 

The legislation is endorsed by: Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, Power to Decide, National Council of Jewish Women, National Women’s Law Center, the Center for Reproductive Rights and NARAL. 

A copy of the bill text is available here. 

A copy of the one-pager is available here

Duckworth and Durbin are fierce advocates in protecting women’s right to access the reproductive healthcare they need. Recently, Duckworth and Durbin joined more than 250 members of Congress in submitting an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, in support of the Biden Administration’s appeal of a federal district court ruling that suspends the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) more than 20-year-old approval of mifepristone as well as the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—which does not revoke FDA approval of mifepristone in its entirety but does significantly restrict access to the drug nationwide and ultimately overrides FDA’s scientific judgment. Duckworth and Durbin also helped introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, federal legislation to guarantee access to abortion everywhere across the country and restore the right to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for millions of Americans.