WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, on Thursday introduced the Saving Abortion Facilities from Extremists (SAFE) for Patients Act, which would allow anyone to sue anyone who intentionally damages or destroys a reproductive health facility, or harasses, injuries, or interferes with someone providing or obtaining reproductive health services. Their bill would also allow civil action against anyone who aids or abets such conduct. Successful claimants will receive $10,000 per offense, plus the cost of attorney’s fees.
“The insidiousness of state legislation like SB 8 in Texas and other bounty hunter bills is that they don’t only seek to shut down abortion facilities, they are crafted to create an atmosphere of paralyzing fear and corrosive suspicion that has a chilling effect on women, LGTBQ+ communities, people of color, and many others exercising personal and civil rights. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block these laws poses an even more catastrophic threat and erosion of these basic human rights,” Rep. Speier said. “The SAFE for Patients Act sends a crystal clear message to far-right extremists that we will not stand for those seeking to put women in their place by robbing them of the freedom to make their own health decisions. The rank hypocrisy and acute danger posed by such legislation, and SCOTUS’ failure to address this legal hypocrisy and danger, also demands a swift and forceful federal response, particularly to protect providers and patients from violence and harassment. Simply put: if such a scheme is acceptable for policing the actions of those providing basic health care, it should be acceptable for policing those who intentionally destroy an abortion facility or obstruct its work through violence or intimidation and take steps to prevent the seeking of or aiding those preventing the seeking of abortion services.”
“Forcing your personal religious beliefs on others is flagrantly unconstitutional; deputizing private citizens to enforce them is downright totalitarian. Abortion is a health care and a basic human right. It is essential to social and economic participation, and the right to determine our own lives,” Rep. Barbara Lee said. “SB 8 not only criminalizes women for exercising this right, but provides a monetary incentive for everyone from abusers to far-right extremists to surveil and punish them for doing so. Women’s bodies should not be more regulated than guns.”
Texas’ SB 8, enacted in September of 2021, allows anyone to seek a $10,000 bounty against anyone who performs or aids and abets an abortion. Oklahoma quickly followed suit with an even more restrictive law enacted in May. Leading up to the passage of these laws, and since, abortion providers have faced an increasingly hostile environment with increases in death threats, harassment, stalking and vandalism as they attempt to provide basic health care to their patients. In 2021 alone, there were 123 incidents of assault and battery, 182 death threats, 9 bomb threats, 71 suspicious packages, 123 acts of vandalism, and 977 acts of trespassing directed at abortion providers. Since 1977, there have been 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 100 acid attacks, 652 acts of stalking, 676 bomb threats, and 1,138 death threats nationwide.
The SAFE for Patients Act lays bare the staggering hypocrisy and existential threat that bounty hunter laws pose by allowing individuals to use the same tools to protect and defend abortion patients and providers.
To view a copy of the bill text, see attachment below.
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