Paying Drug-Addicted Women To Get Sterilized: Choice or Coercion?

Amie Newman

Project Prevention pays low-income, drug-addicted women to get sterilized or use a long-term form of contraception. Is it coercion or simply "reproductive choice?"

Barbara Harris is in the news once again.

The founder of a controversial program that pays drug-addicted women to get sterilized or use a long-term method of birth control, is the subject of a recent New York Post article, with the TV talk-show title, “Why I took $300 to be sterilized.”

Her organization, Project Prevention (formerly called C.R.A.C.K. – Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity) has been extensively covered in the media, analyzed, and discounted by maternal health policy experts and groups including Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) and the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment (CWPE). 

However, as the New York Post reports this weekend, Harris continues her quest to ensure that women who are addicted to drugs become permanently unable to procreate, with plans to extend her program to Africa to pay HIV positive women in Kenya $40 to have an IUD implanted.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Many wonder, lacking appropriate and accessible public health remedies, is this the best we can do?

First some background from my personal experience. In 2003, C.R.A.C.K. began “advertising” via photocopied flyers stapled to telephone poles in the area of Seattle where I worked, at the time. As an employee of a women’s health center, located next to a methadone clinic, C.R.A.C.K. clearly honed in on a location they knew low-income, drug-addicted women congregated.

Their sheets of paper, printed with graying ink, sometimes wet from the ongoing light rain that falls during our Seattle winters, told women they’d be eligible to receive $300 for agreeing to be sterilized or a bit less money for accepting a longer term form of contraception such as Depo-Provera (at the time). A web site for the project (no longer live), noted in the “Do’s and Don’t of Pamphleteering” section, that AA and NA meeting places were appropriate sites for hanging pamphlets. C.R.A.C.K. (aka Project Prevention) obviously also targeted recovering addicts for their “project.” When I first noticed the flyers, I brought the issue to my employer since some of our abortion clients were known to also be clients of the methadone clinic next door. The challenge, of course, was that some of these women were certain to visit us for Depo-Provera, after accepting the cash from C.R.A.C.K. or Project Prevention. What were we to do?

Ultimately, after an in-depth discussion, many meetings with fellow race-based organizations and a  report written about the group, by an employee of a group called CARA (Communities Against Rape and Abuse), we decided that our options, in this scenario, were to simply continue to offer these clients support or referrals for other assistance if they wanted to get help for their addiction or wanted more information about their health care and, as is the case with any woman’s decision to access safe and legal health care including contraception, offer access as well.

The larger issue, of course, is what sort of “help” paying low-income, drug-addicted women to get sterilized truly constitutes. And, Paltrow and others argue, Project Prevention may be more than just ineffectual on a larger scale, it’s harmful as well.

Project Prevention was founded back in 1997, notes Judith Scully in “Cracking Open C.R.A.C.K.: Unethical Sterilization Movement Gains Momentum,” writing for the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, when it used billboards (“Don’t Let a Pregnancy Ruin Your Drug Habit” and “If You Are Addicted to Drugs – Get Birth Control – Get $200 Cash”) to reel women in. But the group advertised (and still advertises) in low-income neighborhoods, bringing in proportionally many more African-American women than Caucasian women. Though the New York Post article (and the organization’s own web site) attempts to counter critics’ claim that the group is racist, with statistics – since its inception, 1,822 Caucasians and 944 African-Americans have “used Project Prevention’s services” – considering the fact that African Americans make up only 13.5% of the total U.S. population, this hardly seems like a color-blind program.

The article paints Harris as a concerned, compassionate woman who says she adopted four children all from the same, drug-addicted mother, years ago. It’s hard to argue that Harris is not concerned or passionate about her cause – and motherhood, especially when it comes to the children she’s raised. As well, given the realities of a public health system where drug and alcohol abusers find it to difficult to access help when they need it; a national foster care system in need of greater attention; and child abuse costs rising to over $100 billion/year, some argue that Harris is making a positive impact, for very little investment.

However, as Paltrow argues, this program which has garnered immense media attention over the years has also been deemed “a violation of informed consent, exploitative, coercive, racist and a form of eugenic population control.”

In a New York Times article about the group, in 1999, Steve Trombley, the CEO of Chicago Planned Parenthood said, “It’s simply a bribe for sterilization…” It’s hardly a leap to consider, Paltrow notes, “dangling” $200 or $300 in front of a drug-addicted, poor woman to get sterilized, coercive.

While the article quotes a couple of women who desperately express gratitude to Harris and her program for keeping them from having any more children, while addicted to drugs, the women don’t seem certain about much else. In fact, one woman in the story – Kelly – credits the program with ensuring that she doesn’t give birth while drug-addicted ever again. She says, “Babies and drugs don’t mix. My kids are the ones who pay for my partying, and I didn’t want to do that to another one. I love them, they are everything to me – I don’t want to smoke their lives away,” Kelly has been reuinted with her two year old daughter and cannot say for certain whether she’ll end up staying off for drugs. Harris’ program does not address her needs – or her daughters’, in this regard, at all.

Paltrow’s examination and analysis of the program including her questions about the lack of the group’s ability to address drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, child welfare and public health – should throw the overall impact of Harris’ organization into question. As Paltrow notes, “This examination makes clear that “far from providing a useful response to problems associated with drug use and pregnancy, C.R.A.C.K. instead acts as a dangerous vector for medical misinformation and political propaganda that has significant implications for the rights of all Americans.”

The New York Post article quotes an obstetrician who works with drug-addicted, pregnant women in North Carolina who calls the cash incentives “bribery” and urges people to consider that drug-addicted women need treatment – not money for sterilization. As well, he says, this type of a program focuses on control over empowerment, despite the propaganda pushed by the organization.

When Harris first envisioned “helping” drug-addicted women and their future babies, she attempted to take a legislative route. She reached out to an Assemblyman in California (where she lives), Phil Hawkins, who agreed to sponsor legislation making it a crime to give birth to a drug-addicted baby. Titled the “Prenatal Neglect Act,” the bill proposed creating a crime of “prenatal child neglect.” Ultimately, Harris and her organization “revised” the history to note that, after adopting four of her children from one drug-addicted mother, she attempted to get a bill passed “that would have made it mandatory that after giving birth to a drug addicted baby the birth mother use long-term birth control.”

Harris told Rewire that she was contacted by a male student in Kenya who “begged her” to come to the country to offer HIV positive women long-term birth control. If Project Prevention expands its reach to target HIV positive women, in Kenya, innumerable questions arise, once again. While there is a risk of transmission of HIV between an infected mother and her fetus, the risk is nearly diminished completely when anti-retroviral treament (ART) is used in pregnancy and labor and the woman does not breastfeed. When there are so many millions infected with HIV, globally, including pregnant women, the focus should be on ensuring that those who need treatment, receive treatment;  and that those who are at greatest risk of being infected, before pregnancy occurs, are able to protect themselves. To pay an HIV positive woman, in Kenya, $40 to be implanted with an IUD is short-sighted at best and retains the focus on the woman as a “broken” vessel rather than on a broken system in need of fixing.

This is not about the woman – in any of these scenarios. This is about the lower-income woman’s body as a vessel. Ignoring a woman’s struggle with drug-addiction; targeting low-income women who use “street” drugs (the organization started out with the name C.R.A.C.K.!) for the impact said drugs may have on a newborn, when in fact the consequences of abusing alcohol while pregnant are much greater in terms of the impact on newborn health; and focusing on preventing HIV positive women in Africa from having children instead of on what we can do, globally, to prevent HIV transmission and infection, do little to actually help mend a system which penalizes women and their children. And lest one think Project Prevention is simply a voluntary, reproductive health service program along the lines of Planned Parenthood, for instance – using an “empowerment” and “free will” model – the coercive and dehumanizing tactics, says Paltrow, do not bear those ideas out. Harris has compared the women she serves to animals saying “They’re having litters. They are literally having litters.”  Paltrow writes,

“Unlike privately funded family planning organizations, C.R.A.C.K. does not focus on the numerous barriers to reproductive health that exist in the U.S., but rather on the harm that women allegedly do to their children and the cost to society of their supposed irresponsibility. It emphasizes the value of controlling their reproduction as a solution to complex public health and economic problems. Instead of providing support for much-needed reproductive health services, outreach, or education, it uses its funds to reward or motivate certain women to be sterilized or use particular forms of birth control, at public expense. As Judith M. Scully argues, “[d]espite its benevolent name, C.R.A.C.K.’s primary goal is to promote population control…”

Indeed, statements by C.R.A.C.K.’s founder and Director Barbara Harris not only provide clear examples of negative stereotyping, they also make clear that control, not empowerment, is in fact C.R.A.C.K.’s primary purpose. As one commentary quoting Ms. Harris observed, “[a]ddict, recovering addict, dirty, clean . . .whatever. The distinction hardly matters to C.R.A.C.K. (Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity), the group that gave [the client] the money. ‘As long as they stay on birth control,’ says founder Barbara Harris, ‘[t]hat’s all we care about.’”

Finally, and by no means of least importance, Paltrow reminds us that targeting “narrowly defined segments of the population” for sterilization or long term birth control is frighteningly “reminiscent of several tragic chapters of recent history.”

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions


Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.


But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.


The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.


In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.