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New DC Council bill seeks to stop the District from outing abortion seekers

The bill also attempts to provide protection for gay people and trans people seeking gender-affirming surgery, should those acts ever be challenged legally.

WASHINGTON — A new bill proposed to the DC Council Friday would prohibit the city from helping another state investigate a person who got or performed an abortion in the District, along with a host of other actions.

The proposal, introduced by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and co-sponsored by 9 other councilmembers, comes after a groundbreaking Politico report shared a draft decision suggesting the Supreme Court could be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming months.

Since the leaked draft has made headlines and been confirmed as legitimate by Chief Justice John Roberts, some have already expressed fear that a future decision could undermine other precedent-setting cases, including civil rights and LGBTQ protections.

RELATED: If Roe is overturned in Supreme Court, some fear civil and LGBTQ rights could be next

Councilmember Nadeau hopes to get ahead of both possible outcomes with the new bill, entitled the Human Rights Sanctuary Amendment Act of 2022. 

"Today I'm introducing legislation to further protect those seeking abortions and other essential civil liberties," Councilmember Nadeau tweeted Friday. "DC must be a safe haven for trans youth, LGBTQ+ people who need to preserve their families, and all people who need reproductive freedom."

The bill would amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prevent the District from supporting interstate investigations with the potential to infringe on people exercising "their reproductive freedom." It would also allow private citizens to take legal action against those who've infringed on that freedom.

The bill stipulates that D.C. Official Code should be amended to include new paragraphs, specifying that the city won’t enforce that someone has done something criminal (even if they have been accused elsewhere) for receiving or seeking an abortion or contraception; helping someone receive one or performing one yourself. 

It goes on to add that people will not be treated as if they’ve done something criminal for engaging in any sexual conduct or marriage that’s lawful in the District. People also will not be treated criminally for providing, consenting to, receiving, or facilitating gender-affirming care, the draft bill says. 

The bill also goes into detail about potential repercussions for people  - even in other jurisdictions - who try to infringe on those behaviors; stating that the person facing the infringement can attempt to recover damages, including costs, expenses and reasonable attorney's fees.  People in the District can try to recover damages from anyone who tried to enforce a prior infringement on their reproductive rights, as well. 

Nadeau said she modeled the bill after legislation recently passed in Connecticut, the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act. Her bill was co-sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, Christina Henderson, Janeese Lewis George, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, and Kenyan McDuffie. 

“While I am hurt and horrified by the assault on human rights perpetrated by the Supreme Court,” Nadeau added, “I am resolved to do all that I can to protect women and other District residents whose liberties are endangered.”

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