This week the DC Council marked-up B24-0830, Protecting Health Professionals Providing Reproductive Health Care Amendment Act of 2022. If enacted, this bill would prohibit disciplinary measures against licensed health professionals providing abortion and reproductive health care services to patients who live in states where abortion is illegal.
Recently, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, thereby eliminating the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. As a result, legislative bodies across the country are seeking to limit abortion access. Historically, Washington, D.C., has been a safe haven for people from states that restrict abortion, thanks in no small part to the DC Abortion Fund. The DC Abortion Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that makes grants to those who are pregnant in the DC area, as well as those traveling to the area who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion. It has been in operation for over two decades and connects those in need of an abortion to a case manager who assists with determining costs for the procedure. A majority of those who utilize the fund are from the DC area, but roughly 10% of those utilizing the fund are from other states
In 2017, the DC Council enacted B23-0434, Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019, which amended the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit the DC government from penalizing those who decide to have an abortion. It makes employment discrimination against healthcare professionals publicly supporting or performing abortions illegal.
Regarding discrimination, the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 says:
"(a) It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for a health care provider to do any of the following against a health care professional based on the health care professional's participation in an abortion or sterilization procedure, participation in abortion or sterilization training outside the course and scope of the health care professional's employment with that health care provider, or willingness to participate in an abortion or sterilization procedure:
"(1) Fail or refuse to hire the health care professional;
"(2) Discharge the health care professional from employment or a medical training program;
"(3) Transfer the health care professional;
"(4) Discriminate against the health care professional with respect to:
"(A) Compensation or promotion;
"(B) Residency or other medical training opportunity;
"(C) Staff privileges, admitting privileges, or staff appointments; or
"(D) Licensure or board certification;
"(5) Take adverse administrative action against the health care professional;
"(6) Harass the health care professional; or
"(7) Otherwise penalize, discipline, or take adverse or retaliatory action against the health care professional.".
The Protecting Health Professionals Providing Reproductive Health Care Amendment Act of 2022 builds on the protections of the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 by amending the District of Columbia Health Occupations Revision Act of 1985 to protect healthcare professionals from being disciplined. Text now directly addresses out-of-state actions and penalties.
The new text states:
“(e-1) A board shall not take any of the actions provided in subsection (c) of this section against a licensed health professional for the provision or facilitation of an abortion or reproductive health care service, that is permitted within the licensed health professional’s scope of practice, based solely on the fact that the patient receiving the service is a resident of a state where the provision or facilitation of an abortion or reproductive health care service is illegal or based on a revocation of a health professional’s license from another state or other disciplinary action by another state, as the result of a health professional’s provision of, authorization of, referral for, assistance with, or participation in an abortion or any other health care service for the purpose of the abortion, or any other reproductive health care service, if the revocation or disciplinary action was based solely on a violation of the other state’s law prohibiting the provision of abortion or other reproductive healthcare service and related services in the state or for a resident of the state or in any other state.”.
B24-0830 was introduced by Councilmembers R. White, Henderson, Bonds, Allen, Lewis George, Silverman, Nadeau, Pinto, Cheh, and Chairman Mendelson and is currently in the Committee on Health, where it had its committee mark-up this week. The bill should now go back to the Committee on Health for a full vote before it has its first reading in before the full Council.