Democrats Propose Travel Grants for Those Seeking Out-of-State Abortions

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would provide grants for those who need to travel out of state for an abortion.

The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act is the latest endeavor by Democrats to mitigate the impact of the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Last week, the House passed legislation to safeguard the right to travel across state lines to seek an abortion after several states banned the procedure in the wake of the court's ruling, although it faces steep odds of passing in the evenly-split Senate.

The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act introduced by Representative Marilyn Strickland of Washington on Wednesday would establish a grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services to ease the financial burden on those who need to travel long distances to access abortion.

"Access to safe and legal reproductive health care, including abortion, should not be limited to those with the resources to travel," said Strickland.

"The decision to overturn Roe already affects low-income families, particularly women of color, across the country. It is our responsibility to ensure equitable access to reproductive medical care for all women regardless of where they live."

The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, who was among 17 members of Congress arrested during an abortion rights protest on Tuesday and Representative Lizzie Fletcher of Texas.

The bill proposes amending the Public Health Service Act "to authorize grants to eligible entities to pay for travel-related expenses and logistical support for individuals with respect to accessing abortion services, and for other purposes."

The Supreme Court's ruling on June 24 eliminated federal abortion rights and is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half of the U.S. Several Republican-led states banned or restricted abortion soon after the ruling, while restrictions in other states will take effect later.

Roe's fall put in motion Texas' trigger law that will soon ban virtually all abortions. But many Texas women have been forced to travel out of state for abortions since a Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy that makes no exceptions for rape or incest took effect in September last year.

U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) speaks
U.S. Representative Marilyn Strickland of Washington recently introduced a bill to create a fund to assist those who need to travel long distances to access abortion services. Pictured, Strickland speaks during a press event on reproductive right in front of the U.S. Capitol July 15, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden highlighted the devastating effect of the ruling by pointing to the case of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was forced to travel to neighboring Indiana for a medication-induced abortion after Ohio's law banning abortions after cardiac activity can be detected came into effect.

The case sparked a political firestorm as conservatives questioned its veracity—and Indiana Republicans have since released a proposal to ban abortion with limited exceptions.

Abortion rights advocates have long warned that abortion bans will disproportionately harm poor women and girls, especially women and girls of color, who will struggle to afford the costs associated with traveling long distances for abortions.

And many have donated to abortion funds in recent weeks, some who run those funds fear it won't be enough to meet the demand as more and more patients seek help with paying for out-of-state abortions.

"Congress has a moral responsibility to do everything we can to support people seeking abortion care," Bush said. "This legislation provides funding to community-based organizations assisting people in trigger-ban states like Missouri who now have to travel out-of-state to receive an abortion."

In Missouri, a 2019 law banning most abortions kicked in the day of the Supreme Court's ruling.

"In my home state of Texas and across the country, we are in a health care crisis—a crisis growing worse each day," Fletcher added.

"One way to help people and organizations respond to this crisis is to authorize grants to eligible entities to pay for travel-related expenses and logistical support for women seeking abortion care in states where it is legal. I am glad to partner with Congresswoman Strickland and Congresswoman Bush in this effort to ensure that Americans can get the care they need no matter what state they call home."