Nearly every GOP rep rejects bill to protect interstate abortion travel

The House took up a couple of bills late last week on abortion rights, including re-passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which cleared the chamber with literally zero GOP votes. But it was the other bill that I was watching with just as much interest. The New York Times reported:

One measure, which passed mainly along party lines, 222 to 205, would protect the right to travel across state lines for abortion services, with three Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure.

The Democratic majority was unanimous in its support for the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, but they were joined by a trio of GOP representatives — two of whom, Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger and Michigan’s Fred Upton, are retiring at the end of this term. The third was Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, who’s running for re-election in a competitive district just north of Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, 205 Republicans voted against it.

The standard GOP line remains the same: As things stand, there are no laws limiting Americans’ ability to travel across state lines for reproductive care, so there’s no need to pass federal legislation to address a problem that doesn’t exist.

As we discussed last week, it’s not an outlandish argument: The Democratic bill is inherently preemptive, intended to address a threat, not restrictions that have already been implemented.

But as The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie noted in his latest column, while the Supreme Court “has recognized a right to travel between states on multiple occasions in cases stretching back to the 19th century,” it’s also true that “some Republican-led states want to take the law” in a radical new direction.

Missouri lawmakers have introduced a “bounty” bill similar to the one now in operation in Texas, which would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident obtain an abortion out of state. Another bill would apply Missouri’s laws to abortions that occur in other states.

The Texas Tribune reported in May, meanwhile, that some GOP legislators also want to approve measures that would “prevent pregnant Texans from seeking legal abortions in other states.”

The Washington Post reported late last month, “Several national anti-abortion groups and their allies in Republican-led state legislatures are advancing plans to stop people in states where abortion is banned from seeking the procedure elsewhere.”

For proponents of reproductive rights, these circumstances are already difficult to defend. Americans, they argue, shouldn’t have to travel to other states — if they can afford it — in order to receive reproductive care. But for some Republicans, this restrictive status quo still isn’t good enough: They’re eyeing policies designed to prevent Americans from terminating unwanted pregnancies in more progressive states, making measures such as the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act more than just election year posturing.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where a related measure has already been blocked once. The odds of the legislation overcoming a Republican filibuster are effectively zero, though the larger debate on this issue is just getting started.