New Report: 2009 a Mix of Highs and Lows for Pro-Choice Americans
I originally posted this on Huffington Post. You can view that entry here.
Today, NARAL Pro-Choice America foundation released the 19th edition of Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States, the nation's most comprehensive report with analysis of choice-related legislation and court decisions. This report arrives as Congress continues to debate abortion coverage in health-care reform and thus reflects a mix of progress and setbacks for choice across the country.
On the federal level, President Obama has done much to reverse the anti-choice policies enacted by the previous administration (he who shall not be named) including the nomination of individuals with strong pro-choice records to key federal positions. Further, we've worked with our pro-choice allies in Congress to:
- lift a ban on Washington, D.C.'s ability to use locally-raised funds to provide abortion services for low-income women
- eliminate funding for two discredited "abstinence-only" programs
- and increase funding for domestic and international family-planning programs.
Still, much of that progress is overshadowed by provisions in health-reform bills that make it more difficult or impossible for women to buy insurance with abortion coverage in the new system.
In other words... 2009 has been a major roller-coaster ride for pro-choice Americans.
On the state level, this report shows a similar combination of progress marked with setbacks:
- In 2009, 14 states and Washington, D.C. enacted 21 pro-choice measures.
- Wisconsin enacted a law that requires health-insurance plans that provide prescription-medication benefits to cover contraceptives and required pharmacists to fill valid birth-control prescriptions.
- Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington enacted laws that improve sex education in schools.
- Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors receive information about and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms.
- In 2009, 14 states enacted 29 anti-choice measures, increasing the number of anti-choice measures enacted in states since 1995 to 610.
- Virginia enacted a law that establishes "Choose Life" license plates. A portion of the proceeds from these plates funds anti-choice organizations known as "crisis pregnancy centers" that target women considering abortion and often mislead, coerce, and intimidate them.
- Arizona enacted a far-reaching law that includes a litany of anti-choice provisions that, among other things, subject women to state-mandated lectures and waiting periods that delay access to abortion care. The law also allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide abortion services and to refuse to provide or dispense contraceptives.
A roller-coaster ride, indeed.
What's the most important lesson we can glean from all of this? I say it all the time, but here it is again: elections matter.
Despite our success in changing the choice-related composition of Congress and the addition of a pro-choice White House, anti-choice lawmakers still outnumber our pro-choice allies. Every time we take a step forward we will face unrelenting resistance from anti-choice politicians who will sink to new lows to undermine women's freedom and privacy, so we must remain vigilant.
I hope you'll take a moment to see how your state fared.