How states are protecting reproductive health care during a time of national abortion bans
News of nationwide abortion bans is overwhelming, so to remain motivated in the fight for reproductive justice, it’s important to remember that politicians and governments are still successfully expanding and defending reproductive rights. In an exclusive op-ed, Denicia Cadena, Policy Director at Young Women United, details the many states that have continued to support choice.
Over the last few weeks, it seems like not a day has gone by without a state attack on abortion care dominating the headlines. From bans on abortion to attempts to shut down clinics, politicians this year have ratcheted up their attempts to push abortion care out of reach and, ultimately, initiate a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Women and people of color in those communities are working hard to mitigate the harms done to their communities and organizing to change the policy landscapes putting their families in danger.
But in the midst of these attacks, other states, including my own home state of New Mexico, have stepped up to protect and expand reproductive health care for their communities. This year, New Mexico lawmakers passed a law that ensures that people have insurance coverage for birth control, including over-the-counter methods. Women of color have been working toward no-cost contraception for years because we recognize that insurance coverage is key to accessing reproductive health care, especially for low-income folks.
However, we still have ground to cover in New Mexico. While a bill to decriminalize abortion ultimately stalled, a majority of New Mexicans believe that women deserve to be supported and respected when seeking reproductive health care. It is only a matter of time until my home state repeals our outdated, unenforceable abortion restrictions.
This year, the following states have demonstrated their commitment to ensuring their residents ca access reproductive health care, including abortion.
On June 12th, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Reproductive Health Act, a multi-faceted bill that establishes the fundamental right to make personal decisions about reproductive health care, including contraception, abortion, and maternity care. The law repeals medically unnecessary restrictions aimed at shutting down abortion clinics, overturns an outdated, blocked law that penalizes doctors who perform abortions, requires all public and private health insurance companies to cover abortion just as they do contraception and maternity care, and allows advanced practice nurses and physician assistants to perform abortions.
Governor Janet Mills signed a bill allowing advanced practice clinicians—including registered nurses and physicians assistants, and certified midwives—to perform abortions. Studies have long shown that these health care professionals are equally qualified to provide the same level of safe care as physicians, and state limits on who can provide care often lead to decreased access. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 55 percent of the women in Maine live in counties that didn’t have an abortion provider. By letting more health care professionals provide abortion services, this law puts Mainers closer to the care they need, regardless of where they live in the state.
With the looming threat of a newly conservative Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Governor Phil Scott signed a bill into law that enshrines the right to abortion. In fact, the law explicitly prohibits the state from interfering with anyone’s decision about whether or when to become a parent.
California is often heralded as a leader among states in reproductive health and rights, but students on college campuses still face significant barriers in getting the care they need. Enter the College Student Right to Access Act, filed this year as Senate Bill 24, that requires all 34 public universities in the state to offer medication abortion at on-campus health centers.
Studies have shown that medication abortion is safe and simpler to provide than the reproductive health services already offered at on-campus student health centers. Still, students are unnecessarily forced to take time away from class, homework, or work to get to an off-campus provider. The extra cost of public transportation or lost wages disproportionately impacts students who are struggling to make ends meet.
SB 24 passed the California Senate in May 2019, and a state Assembly committee has voted to advance the bill.
In May, Governor Steve Sisolak signed the Trust Nevada Women Act, which repealed antiquated restrictions and penalties on abortion and doctors who provide care. Championed by the first majority-female state legislature in the country, the law decriminalizes medication abortion and repeals requirements that physicians report to the state the age and relationship status of their patients.
At the signing, Sisolak made it clear: “In light of increasing attacks at the federal level and in other states such as Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Louisiana, SB 179 reaffirms Nevada’s commitment to protecting reproductive freedom and access to reproductive health care.”