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House Passes Bill Protecting Women’s Reproductive Rights in Delaware

The House passed House Bill 455 on Tuesday by a party line vote of 24-13 with 4 members being absent. Two of those absent votes are interesting: that of Mike Ramone and Michael Smith. Perhaps they knew the prospect of voting one way or the other on this bill would damage their electoral prospects, either in a GOP primary or in a general election in Northern New Castle County.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, and Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, would improve the availability of safe and accessible reproductive healthcare services and protect patients and providers from facing legal action under other states’ abortion laws as the nation prepares for a disastrous ruling from a radical fascist majority of the U.S. Supreme Court taking away the constitutional rights of half the nation’s population.

Nearly two dozen states have enacted laws to restrict or ban abortion under all or nearly all circumstances. More than half of these states have so-called “trigger laws” that would ban abortion automatically or by simple state action if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

If and when the draft majority opinion of the U.S Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization becomes official, nearly 40 million women could lose access to abortion care in their home state, and would be forced to travel to receive legal abortion care.

In Delaware, the privacy protections of Roe v. Wade are already codified in state law, guaranteeing residents have access to legal abortion services even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. But more needs to be done to protect Delawareans from the conservative attack on reproductive health.

House Bill 455 would expand the field of qualified medical professionals who can perform abortions before viability to include physician assistants and certified nurse practitioners and nurse midwifes who are approved by the Board of Nursing. Physician Assistants and advanced practice registered nurses are already authorized to prescribe medication for the termination of pregnancy under HB 320, a law the General Assembly passed earlier this year.

HB 455 includes myriad legal protections for providers, organizations, and patients, including out-of-state residents receiving abortion care in Delaware:

  • Protects medical privacy. HB 455   would protect communications and records concerning reproductive health services, unless those records are needed to investigate claims of abuse against a provider.
  • Limits extradition. The legislation would protect individuals from extradition to other states for criminal charges related to terminating a pregnancy.
  • Shields individuals from civil actions. Under HB 455, those who seek, obtain, provide, or assist others in obtaining legal reproductive healthcare would be protected from civil actions in another state.
  • Provides a cause of action. HB 455 would provide a cause of action where someone sued in another state for allegedly receiving or providing abortion services that are legal in Delaware can recover related costs, damages, or attorney fees.
  • Protects professional licensees. The bill clarifies that medical professionals who perform, recommend, or provide legal reproductive health services in Delaware are not subject to other states’ abortion provider regulations.
  • Binds insurance companies. The legislation would also prohibit insurers from increasing premiums or taking adverse actions against providers and organizations for providing legal reproductive health care services. This protection would extend to medical professionals who prescribe abortion medication via telehealth.
House Bill 455 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Minor-Brown, Heffernan, Longhurst, K.Johnson, Griffith, Bennett, Baumbach, Morrison, Kowalko, Mitchell, S.MooreHouse Passes 24-13-4. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Friel Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley Morris Postles Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick Absent: Bolden Lynn Ramone M.Smith
Gay, S.McBride, Sturgeon, Townsen, Hansen, Paradee, Sokola
Current Status: Sent to the Senate.

“As a nurse, I have friends who have decided to have children – and friends who decided not to have children,” said Rep. Minor-Brown. “I believe we should have the option to do what we want with our bodies and have the privacy to make our own medical decisions while always receiving quality care from providers. We have come a long way to get to a place where women have access to safe, reproductive healthcare, and we refuse to move backward.”

“A woman’s right to choose extends beyond pregnancy and abortion – it’s also about choosing the best healthcare for them,” said Rep. Longhurst. “We have always made it a point in Delaware to break down barriers as well as fight to protect women. Passing this legislation is just one more example of our commitment to ensuring women’s rights are never taken for granted.”

“We are potentially just days away from the Supreme Court overturning Roe,” said Sen. Gay, Senate prime sponsor of HB 455. “It is our responsibility to do everything we can to keep abortion services legal and accessible.”

HB 455 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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