It’s mid-2015. Do you know where your reproductive rights are? A new briefing explains.
In just the first six months of 2015, three separate anti-choice bills arrived on the desk of Montana governor Steve Bullock. The intent of the measures was clear: to roll back abortion access with cruel and medically pointless regulations, like a ban on doctors using video technology to guide patients through medication abortion, a safe and innovative approach to providing care to women in rural areas.
Bullock knocked the measures down with a trilogy of vetoes. “Montana’s elected officials have no business substituting their personal beliefs for the sound medical judgment of our health care professionals,” he said.
That sentiment sums up the state of affairs in 2015—politicians playing doctor and anti-choice activists ignoring scientific fact to advance their assault on women’s rights. “Faced with the reality that a woman’s right to an abortion is a fundamental human right enshrined in constitutional law—not to mention supported by most Americans,” observes Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, “anti-choice politicians have gotten desperate, turning to junk science and disingenuous tactics.”
At the same time, there are promising bright spots. Women’s advocates like Gov. Bullock have defeated bad legislation across the country while others have made strides in expanding insurance coverage for abortion care. But a cadre of politicians remains committed to curtailing reproductive rights, and they’ve proven they won’t let the truth—or women’s well-being, for that matter—stand in their way.
Legislators in Arizona and Arkansas enacted bills that force physicians to lie to their patients by telling them that abortion can be “reversed,” despite the chorus of real doctors who slammed the measures for being contrary to basic medical science and a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. A coalition of groups including the National Physicians Alliance, the American Academy of Family Physicians and others denounced the laws for forcing doctors “to violate their medical training and ethical obligation to their patients.”
Kansas and Oklahoma both passed similarly invasive laws that criminalized physicians who provide the best care they can to their patients rather than follow the dictates of anti-choice politicians. The Center for Reproductive Rights, joined by other organizations, challenged the Arizona and Kansas laws, and the courts have blocked their enforcement for the moment.
Reproductive rights are in jeopardy particularly across the South, where mandatory waiting periods force women to delay obtaining abortion care in every state in the region, for up to 72 hours. State-mandated waiting periods are hardest on low-income women, especially in rural areas far from abortion clinics, by saddling them with the costs of two visits to a clinic: multiple tanks of gas, hotel stays, time off from work, and child care. These laws are patronizing to all women but they can be downright deadly to women who face abuse at home, for whom finding the time to get to a clinic without an abuser discovering their plans can be nearly impossible.
Several states in particular are poised to launch all-out assaults on women’s rights by testing the limits of Roe v. Wade. Tennessee voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that enabled lawmakers in 2015 to attack reproductive rights. The floodgates to anti-choice laws opened, putting women and families at risk throughout the region, where abortion clinics are scarce and many women have depended on Tennessee’s facilities in the past.
Arkansas unleashed an anti-choice blitz of its own, with six separate bills attacking reproductive health services from all angles, while Texas doubled down on its ongoing campaign against reproductive rights. Just two years after passing a massive anti-choice law that could have left just nine clinics open in America’s second biggest state, Texas politicians passed new regulations aimed squarely at low-income and undocumented women and teens, like requirements that all adult patients show an official ID proving they are not a minor, a virtually impossible hurdle for undocumented women and a cause of dangerous delays in time-sensitive medical care for others.
West Virginia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio are some of the states that attempted to pass unconstitutional bans on 20-week abortions. West Virginia went so far as to override Gov. Ray Tomblin’s veto, enacting the bill into law and eliminating a rarely used but vital medical option for West Virginian women.
Fortunately, reproductive rights advocates haven’t taken this onslaught sitting down.
After Virginia’s Board of Health buckled under pressure from anti-choice politicians and imposed onerous new construction standards designed to do nothing more than close abortion clinics, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a legal opinion that called for existing facilities to be exempt from the medically unnecessary rules.
Louisiana politicians introduced two-pronged legislation in 2015 intended to force abortion patients to learn the sex of the fetus and ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus. The bill’s under-handed intent was to intimidate women while doing nothing to combat actual gender-based discrimination. In its cynical subtext, the measure fueled racist stereotypes that Asian Pacific Islander families don’t value girls, which led the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum to denounce the bill, forcing anti-choice politicians to back down.
Advocates continued to push forward in Oregon and Washington State, where lawmakers worked to advance bills to restore insurance coverage for abortion, and local officials in Madison, Wisconsin, joined a growing chorus calling for full insurance coverage of abortions.
Get the big picture. View the State of the States interactive map.