If passed, the legislation would undo the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. The goal of the legislation is to “enshrine in federal law the fundamental right to reproductive freedom.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Tim Kaine, alongside Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation called the Reproductive Freedom For All Act.
The legislation states that “Americans have the freedom to make certain reproductive decisions without undue government interference,” as per the rulings of multiple US Supreme Court rulings in recent decades, including Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The act states that:
- States shall not prohibit individuals from obtaining or using birth control or seeking care related to contraceptives
- States shall not impose “undue burdens” on women who choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable, usually around 24 weeks.
- States may regulate the termination of pregnancy after fetal viability.
- A state shall not prohibit the termination of a pregnancy that “in the appropriate medical judgment of the tending health care practitioner or practitioners is medically indicated to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman.”
An undue burden arises if the purpose or effect of a state restriction on abortion imposes a substantial obstacle on someone seeking an abortion that outweighs the benefits such restrictions may provide the state. Examples of “undue burdens” include state-mandated waiting periods before someone can receive an abortion and so-called “informed consent” laws, which require that certain information be given to patients seeking abortions. These requirements can lead to patients’ receiving misleading, incorrect, and often biased information
In other cases, it could mean a minor needing consent from at least one parent or guardian to seek an abortion, or a married woman needing to notify her husband of an abortion.
What qualifies as an “undue burden” can vary from state to state or even within different healthcare networks, including hospital systems and independent doctors. In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, lawyers have started filing cases about “undue burdens,” including one in Iowa, where the Iowa Supreme Court denied Gov. Kim Reynolds’ request to revisit a 24-hour waiting period for abortions.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Kaine talked about some of the consequences that have resulted from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision.
“Every person in this country, no matter what zip code they live in, should have a basic federal guarantee about contraception and the availability of abortion services,” he said.
His speech addressed the recent situation in Ohio where a 10-year-old rape victim could not receive an abortion in her home state and had to travel to Indiana for one, adding, “That is not what this country should expect, nor indeed what we should tolerate.”
Kaine also pointed out the bipartisan nature of the legislation, as it demonstrates “that there’s now bipartisan support and majority support in the United States Senate to protect reproductive freedom for all.”
Despite the bipartisan nature of the bill, a coalition of 15 reproductive health, human rights, faith-based, and justice organizations have voiced concerns over the fact that “the bill introduced does not address the abortion access crisis.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Catholics for Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America–among others–released a statement Tuesday morning responding to the bipartisan legislation.
In the press release, the organizations said, “Immediately after the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling, multiple states moved to ban abortion and more will follow suit. Millions of people now live in a state where they no longer possess the fundamental right to decide what they can do with their bodies and their lives.”
The groups also acknowledged the fact that abortion bans and “other medically uncessary restrictions” passed by states harm people who face barriers to quality health care because of “systemic racism and discrimination,” including low-income residents, people in rural communities, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color.
The groups continued: “This bill claims to ‘codify’ Roe v. Wade but fails to do so,” because there isn’t anything in the legislation prohibiting pre-viability abortion bans, as “viability” isn’t fully defined.