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Kaine aims to codify range of personal, civil rights

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks into a microphone
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is cosponsoring a bill aiming to guarantee access to the abortion pill through the mail. Kaine said he and other Democratic legislators are pushing to codify rights following the Dobbs decision. (File photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Wednesday that he is optimistic Congress will codify a range of personal and civil rights that recent Supreme Court decisions have rescinded or called into question. 

In response to the recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Kaine is cosponsoring a bill that seeks to grant permanent access through the mail to the abortion pill.

“No woman of childbearing age should be forced to contemplate moving away from family and job, and friends and what we know because of a threat that the state will criminalize you for making reproductive healthcare decisions,” Kaine said. 

Since 2016, about 96% of abortions in Virginia have been performed during the first trimester, according to the Virginia Department of Health. 

At the Wednesday press event, Kaine said he and other Democrats had not worked to codify abortion rights previously because he believed the Constitution protected the right to an abortion. Legislators were spurred to action following the “earthquake” caused by the  high court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the senator said. 

“Americans have been able to count on the federal definition of citizenship contained in the 14th Amendment — carried with it, the ability to make fundamental personal decisions in your own life without the criminal law intruding,” Kaine said. 

Other rights he is seeking to protect include the right to contraception, the right to travel across state lines for healthcare and the right for physicians to treat people who travel across state lines — not just for abortion care. 

Another example, Kaine said, of steps being taken to enshrine personal freedoms was the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to codify same-sex marriage on Tuesday. Dozens of Republicans joined Democrats in passing the bill, though its future in the Senate is unclear. 

“My hope is that we pass that bill soon in the Senate,” Kaine said of the gay-marriage vote.  

Left up to state government, the senator said he doubts all legislatures will make equitable decisions for their constituents.  

“If you're an American ... what comes with that is some ability not just to be kicked around by the whims of state legislatures, where you might be dramatically underrepresented,” Kaine said.