Delaware capitol building

(The Center Square ) – Abortion protections in Delaware could be strengthened under a bill that has received the state House of Representatives’ stamp of approval and currently is in the hands of the Senate.

House Bill 455 contains several provisions, including protections for out-of-state providers and patients from actions that could be enforced in their home jurisdictions.

The legislation was drafted and introduced in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal ruling Friday morning that overturned the nearly half-century old Roe v. Wade ruling that blocked states from restricting abortions.

With the controversial topic back under the auspices of state legislatures, governing bodies will have to take up specific legislation based on either side of the abortion argument.

Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, is the primary sponsor of HB 455. Minor-Brown, a nurse, spoke of the bill’s intent when she introduced it a third and final time on the House floor on June 14.

“House Bill 455 is common sense legislation,” Minor-Brown said, indicating it was introduced into the General Assembly in response to “the change in conditions in the country right now.”

“Women have a right to have access to all healthcare services, including reproductive health services,” Minor-Brown said.

The bill outlines how Delaware would provide protections to out-of-state patients and providers, including a privacy provision. Communications and records concerning reproductive health services, for example, would be confidential unless there is an abuse claim against a provider that spurs an investigation.

HB 455 also provides a shield from civil actions for anyone assisting, providing, seeking and obtaining reproductive healthcare services.

Another provision within the bill addresses insurance companies. As drafted, HB 455 would prohibit a rise in patient premiums or taking action against providers when reproductive healthcare services within Delaware are rendered.

In her recent discussion of the bill’s intent, Minor-Brown said the legislation also expands authority within the state’s medical community.

The list of qualified medical professionals who could perform abortions within the state could include physician assistants, nurse midwives approved by the Delaware Board of Nursing and certified nurse practitioners.

“This bill expands access to reproductive health services by scope of practice,” Minor-Brown said.

During the House vote on HB 455, the legislation passed on a 24-13 vote, with four of the representatives not in attendance the day it was taken up.

The split largely was down party lines, and several detractors have opined on the issue of abortion outside the parameters of the June 14 meeting.

On his legislative Facebook page, state Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, said he is advocating for a bill that would prohibit an abortion when the age of a fetus meets or exceeds 20 weeks.

Explaining his support for such a proposal, Dukes wrote, “The proposed threshold is based on medical studies indicating fetuses reaching the stage of development are capable of experiencing pain.”