Saturday, February 24

Rep. Carolyn Maloney aims to expand access to abortion resources with new bill

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., will introduce a bill Friday aimed at improving access to abortion services, as well as accurate information on the procedure, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, NBC News has learned.

The Abortion Care Awareness Act of 2022 is the latest effort by Democrats to address the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion, which has since spurred multiple states to limit or outright ban the procedure.

The legislation would direct the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out a federal public health campaign to help people obtain abortion services without violating the Hyde Amendment — a decades-old policy that bars federal funding from paying for abortions.

The bill would direct HHS to set up a national campaign to promote resources on where and how to obtain abortion care, medication abortion, and a patient’s right to travel across state lines to get the procedure. The measure would also call on the Biden administration to provide guidance on how to differentiate between abortion providers and crisis pregnancy centers — often faith-based organizations that counsel people against having abortions, many of which have been accused of spreading medical misinformation — and to “ identify misinformation regarding abortion and related health services intended to deceive, or to discourage individuals from accessing such services.”

It’s unclear if the bill will gain momentum in the House, but it is unlikely to become law due to expected Republican opposition in the Senate.

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Still, Maloney argued that “it’s not going to pass if you don’t try,” adding, “we are committed to protecting abortion rights and preserving access even if it means abolishing the filibuster.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney attends a rally for reproductive justice in Washington Square Park in New York on Aug. 13.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney attends a rally for reproductive justice in Washington Square Park in New York on Aug. 13.John Nacion / STAR MAX/IPx via AP file

A large coalition of reproductive health groups — including the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and more — will endorse Maloney’s bill.

“[Since] the extreme Supreme Court’s decision, Republican-led states have rushed to impose draconian bans,” Maloney said in an interview with NBC News, pointing to a staff analysis showing that the restrictions affect abortion access for an estimated 31 million women of reproductive age. “And we’ve documented 50 different bills that limit access to abortion on a federal level — it’s important that we have efforts to push back against their punitive actions.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., introduced a bill in September that would ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy in most cases, drumming up criticism from Republicans and Democrats.

Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB-GYN and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, who supports Maloney’s bill, said she has been “disheartened” to hear from her patients who have been given “misinformation about abortion from anti-abortion extremists.”

“Abortion is safe, and our communities need legislation like the Abortion Care Awareness Act that protects them from disinformation and misinformation about abortion care,” Verma said.

Karen Stone, Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of public policy and government relations, echoed the need to expand access to educational resources on reproductive health care.

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“At a time when anti-abortion lawmakers are peddling disinformation to create chaos and confusion, we need to make sure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to medically accurate information to make informed health care decisions for themselves — including information on medication abortion,” Stone said.

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