Welch joins bill to expand capacity for abortion services

Following disastrous Dobbs decision, ACCESS Act would support providers in states where abortion remains legal 

Vermont Business Magazine On Wednesday, US Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support Services (ACCESS) Act, legislation cosponsored by US Senator Peter Welch (D-Vermont), which would establish a federal grant program for health care organizations to expand their capacity to provide abortion services and other reproductive care in states where it remains legal. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, nearly half of all U.S. states have adopted or attempted to adopt severe restrictions or bans on abortion services. As a result, the number of patients traveling out of state to access reproductive health care has nearly doubled, overwhelming clinics in states where abortion services are legal and causing longer wait times and other barriers for patients.  

“As Republicans continue to attack women’s reproductive rights, too many people have been forced to travel across state lines to receive essential, and sometimes life-saving, reproductive health care,” said Senator Hirono. “The devastating Dobbs decision has worsened logistical and financial barriers for women accessing abortion care, and further strained our provider shortage and health care system. I am proud to introduce this legislation to help ensure medical facilities have the capacity to provide quality reproductive care to those who need it.”  

“With Roe v. Wade thrown out by the Supreme Court and Republicans around the country threatening IVF, we must take action to help strengthen access to reproductive care for low-income Americans, servicemembers and millions more—no matter their income, race or zip code,” said Senator Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senator Hirono in introducing the ACCESS Act to help healthcare organizations expand their capacity to provide reproductive care for those who need it and bring us closer to a future where every woman in every state can access the reproductive care they need.” 

“Since Roe was overturned, states across the country have banned or restricted access to reproductive care–forcing women to make incredibly difficult decisions to cross state lines or travel long journeys to access abortion care. In Vermont, abortion providers have seen the impact of post-Dobbs legislation firsthand as they experience an increase in out-of-state patients seeking care,” said Senator Welch. “The ACCESS Act works to ensure that abortion providers in Vermont and states across the country where abortion remains legal have the resources they need to expand capacity and provide reproductive health services for all who need it.” 

Specifically, the ACCESS Act would establish a program to award grants to eligible entities, such as hospitals, clinics, and non-profit organizations, that have experienced the highest increases of out-of-state patients seeking abortion and other reproductive services, to help expand their capacity to deliver reproductive health care. 

Grants would support at least one of the following activities: 

  • Expansion of facilities, such as more examination, operation, or recovery rooms; 
  • Purchase of medical supplies or equipment; 
  • Administration of telehealth services; 
  • Hiring or training of clinical and non-clinical support staff; and  
  • Other forms of ancillary support. 


In addition to Senators Hirono and Duckworth, the ACCESS Act is cosponsored by Senators Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

“Extremist attacks on reproductive freedom have strained financial resources and personnel at clinics in abortion-protected states, leaving them struggling to provide care for the influx of patients traveling from anti-abortion states,” said Senator Butler. “While we keep pushing to codify the protections of Roe, steps like the ACCESS Act are necessary to meet the growing demands for quality reproductive care.” 

“All Americans, no matter where they live, should be able to access the health care they need, including reproductive care,” said Senator Merkley. “Since the fall of Roe v. Wade, states like Oregon have seen a tremendous surge of out-of-state patients in search of abortion care and other sexual and reproductive health care services. Take Planned Parenthood in Bend, for example, which experienced a 1,000% increase in patients crossing the state line from Idaho after the state banned abortion in August 2022. The ACCESS Act establishes critical federal support for the hospitals, clinics, and nonprofits in our communities, expanding capacity for reproductive freedom for all.” 

“The ongoing attacks on women's reproductive rights further underscore the urgent need to protect and support medical facilities providing essential health care services to patients,” said Senator Blumenthal. “With more and more people being forced to cross state lines to receive basic care, this legislation is needed now more than ever to ensure health care providers have the capacity to best serve their patients.” 

This legislation is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Center for Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Freedom for All, All* Above All Action Fund, Power to Decide, Physicians for Reproductive Health, National Council of Jewish Women, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Partnership for Women and Families, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. 

“Providers are on the frontlines of an unimaginable public health crisis, orchestrated by anti-abortion politicians, that is forcing patients, if they are able, to travel in order to access time-sensitive health care,” said Karen Stone, Vice President of Public Policy and Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We are grateful to Senator Hirono for her steadfast leadership and unwavering commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Abortion is health care — and this bill is a crucial step towards ensuring patients can access the care they need when they need it.” 

Last month, Representatives Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), Judy Chu (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and more than 80 of their colleagues introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

This Congress, Senate Democrats attempted to pass four common-sense bills: the Right to Contraception Act, the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act, the Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act, and the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act—all of which were blocked by Senate Republicans. 

Senator Welch is a cosponsor of legislation to protect and expand reproductive rights, including the Women’s Health Protection Act, Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2023, Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act, Right to Contraception Act, Affordability is Access Act, Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act, Reproductive Health Care Accessibility Act, and the Protecting Service Members and Military Families’ Access to Reproductive Care Act of 2023. 

Last year, Sen. Welch joined 49 Senate Democrats and 207 Members of the House of Representatives in signing an amicus brief in support of the Department of Justice’s petition for U.S. Supreme Court consideration of FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. Sen. Welch also supported a resolution in support of equitable, science-based policies governing access to medication abortion, and joined 37 Senate Democrats in sending a letter to the Department of Defense reaffirming their commitment to the Pentagon’s reproductive health care policies and underscoring the national security imperatives tied to protecting leave for related services. 

Read the full text of the legislation. 

Source: 3.20.2024. WASHINGTON, DC –Welch.