Trone, Dem lawmakers push White House to make restricting abortions sex discrimination

15 February 2024- Congressman David Trone (MD-06), member of the Pro-Choice Caucus, joined Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) White House Liaison Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chair Lois Frankel (FL-22), Vice Chairs Nikema Williams (GA-05) and Teresa Leger Fernández (NM-03), and over 150 House Democratic colleagues in urging the Biden-Harris Administration to protect Americans from the criminalization of their pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes, in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 

“We write to bring to your attention the longstanding pattern of criminalization of people on the basis of their pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes that has intensified in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” wrote the members in a letter.

“We urge you to provide all legal and medical support available within your respective authorities to prevent the criminalization of pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes,” continued the members.

“The laws we’ve seen coming out of state legislatures – and even introduced in Congress – to criminalize abortion for women are draconian,” said Congressman Trone, who currently holds a 100% voting record with Planned Parenthood and Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL). “We’ve already seen what happens when these restrictive laws are put in place and their results are nothing short of horrific. I’ll never stop working to ensure that women’s rights to reproductive health care are never taken away.”

The letter specifically calls on the White House, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services to: 

  • Investigate any prosecutions of people’s pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes as an unlawful form of sex discrimination, which includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy;
  • Make clear hospital and medical staff’s obligations to maintain patient privacy and investigate any potential violations of that privacy;
  • Enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care, against any federally-funded health care provider whose staff improperly report patients’ pregnancies or pregnancy outcomes to law enforcement.

The letter comes amid a growing pattern of women facing criminal charges related to their pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes, including Brittany Watts, an Ohio woman who was unjustly charged with a felony crime related to her miscarriage late last year. This alarming pattern, which disproportionately targets people of color, risks deterring people from accessing essential health care unless decisive action is taken. 

“When individuals like Ms. Watts cannot seek medical care for pregnancy-related conditions without fear of discrimination and criminalization, our health care system and our justice system have failed.” wrote the Members. “Systemic racism, implicit bias, unequal access to quality care, and inequities in social determinants of health have facilitated a system where women of color are more likely to experience pregnancy complications and be punished more often for seeking health care.”

The letter has been endorsed by: National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Center for Reproductive Rights, Physicians for Reproductive Health, If/When/How, Pregnancy Justice, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

“Make no mistake: the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes, including abortion, put pregnant people — especially Black, Latino, and Indigenous folks — in grave danger. Brittany Watts’ story is an example of the heartbreaking consequences and terrifying confusion that’s created when anti-abortion politicians strip people of their freedom, criminalize essential health care, and try to come between patients and their providers. We are grateful to Reps. Beatty, Frankel, Leger-Fernández, and Williams for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with our leaders to end pregnancy criminalization. Miscarriage is common. Abortion is common. And no one should be criminalized for how their pregnancy ends,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Read the full letter below and here.