HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Abortion Travel Protections to Get Votes

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Senate Democrats on Thursday will try—and likely fail—to tee up for a vote a bill blocking states from restricting women from traveling out of state to receive an abortion.

Democratic leaders in both chambers are pushing for votes on similar bills to ensure that anyone who lives in a state where they cannot obtain an abortion can still travel to one where they can. No states currently ban such travel. After the US Supreme Court ruling to overturn long-standing federal abortion protections, some employers announced they would cover travel expenses for employees getting abortion care.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said she’s concerned about a “chilling effect” from laws in nearby states like Texas, which lets people sue anyone who assists someone in getting an abortion. She said doctors in her state, where abortion is legal, and women seeking care have told her they fear they could be sued. “There is no doubt that I already see it in my state,” she said.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told reporters she’ll move on the bill introduced Tuesday by four Democrats despite the absence of two of her colleagues this week due to Covid. Murray and Cortez Masto in a press release last night said they would push to win unanimous consent for the bill on Thursday, an effort all but doomed to fail from Republican opposition.

The House this week is scheduled to vote on a similar bill (H.R. 8297) from Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas).

Doctors Fearing Blowback Deny Life-Saving Abortions: Hospitals and doctors are struggling to toe the line between providing life-saving procedures for women and wading into a legal gray area that’s emerged in the absence of abortion rights. Conflicting state and federal guidance has left doctors struggling to understand how possible exemptions apply in emergencies. There’s also the question of what happens when a patient has to undergo a treatment like chemotherapy, which can be toxic to a fetus.

“There’s many gray areas that happen in medicine,” said Rebekah Gee, a former secretary of Louisiana’s health department and founder and CEO of primary-care company Nest Health. “The human body is very complicated. These laws are not gray—they’re black and white.” Read more from Lauren Coleman-Lochner, Carly Wanna, and Elaine Chen.

Ariz. Interpretation Law Blocked Against Abortion Providers: An Arizona law that could subject abortion providers to criminal prosecutions under a variety of state statutes has been blocked for the duration of a lawsuit because it’s likely unconstitutionally vague, a federal court in the state said. Known as the interpretation policy, the provision requires all Arizona laws be “interpreted and construed” to “acknowledge” the rights of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. Mary Anne Pazanowski has more.

What Else to Know Today

Wednesday’s Hearings:

  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee holds a Wednesday hearing on the implications of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • The Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds a Wednesday markup to consider the nomination of Roselyn Tso to be the director of the Indian Health Service under the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • BGOV Calendar: See the full list of hearings and events this week.

House Vote on Burn Pits Bill: The House is slated to vote Wednesday on legislation (S. 3373) to provide health benefits to veterans exposed to toxins while serving overseas, Loren Duggan reports. The new version of the measure omits a tax provision from the original bill (H.R. 3967) that raised constitutional issues, and will be offered as a House amendment. Brittney Washington has highlights in the BGOV Bill Summary.

US Eyes Expanding Second Boosters to All Adults: The Biden administration is discussing expanding eligibility for second Covid booster shots to adults under 50 amid the spread of the BA.5 omicron variant that accounts for most US cases. Discussions about expanding the second booster recommendations “have been going on for a while,” White House Covid czar Ashish Jha said during a briefing, stressing that the decision is the FDA’s and CDC’s to make. Jordan Fabian, Robert Langreth, and Riley Griffin have more.

Employers Are Sharing Health Price Data, but Real Change Is Slow: Employer-sponsored health plans and health insurers are expected to be more compliant with rules requiring them to make their price data public than hospitals were in 2021. But employers will now have to step up and start using the information to ensure their employees are getting the best deals when they seek medical care. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Biogen’s SCOTUS Case Bid Backed by Science Advocates: Biogen won the support of a science and legal advocacy group in its bid for Supreme Court review of a Federal Circuit ruling that will allow Mylan Pharmaceuticals and other generic drugmakers to sell copycats of the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Biogen’s request for another hearing of the case, drawing a dissent from three judges. Read more from Samantha Handler.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at; Alex Ruoff in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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