Commentary Abortion

One Year Later: Texas After the Filibuster Stands Stronger Than Ever for Reproductive Justice

Andrea Grimes

Naysayers would have us believe that Texans have surrendered to the inevitable, that they have stopped working for reproductive rights after the fervor of the summer of 2013. Nothing I have seen in the last year suggests that they are any less angry, any less passionate, than they were last June.

Read more of our coverage on Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster and the fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

When people talk about the summer of 2013 in Austin, Texas, they’ll inevitably talk about state Sen. Wendy Davis’ courageous 13-hour filibuster on the senate floor. They’ll talk about her pink sneakers, and her tenacity, and her calm in the face of overwhelming opposition from right-wing lawmakers out to silence her at any opportunity.

But I want to shift the spotlight. I want to talk about the people without whose support Wendy Davis could never have taken the floor that day. The hundreds of witnesses who stayed through the night at the people’s filibuster on June 20, only to be told by a Republican representative that their stories were tiresome, repetitive. The two sisters who cut short a vacation in South Padre Island to arrive at the capitol building in the early morning hours of June 25. The legislative staffers who worked tirelessly collecting testimony, researching precedent, combing through arcane parliamentary procedure. The tens of thousands of people who screamed and cheered and raged and cried in their own living rooms, in their office cubicles, from barstools and in classrooms across Texas, and across the country.

What Wendy Davis did was incredible—but it was no more incredible than the bravery I saw from my fellow Texans over those three weeks in June and July 2013.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

When folks started showing up for what would become known as the “people’s filibuster” at the House State Affairs Committee hearing, I didn’t have high expectations. I arrived at the capitol a little before noon that day, figuring we’d turn up a hundred people, maybe, to tell our right-wing, anti-choice lawmakers all the medically sound, science-based information they were already hell-bent on ignoring.

Twelve hours later, I sat in an overflow room surrounded by cookies, tacos, and pizza donated by people all across the country who’d tuned in to watch the Texas legislature’s finnicky livestream. And I heard the incredible number: seven hundred people had signed up to testify that night. The goal: run out the clock until the end of the special legislative session, suck up as much time as we could, in hopes of blocking what would be known as SB 5, the omnibus anti-abortion bill set to shutter all but a handful of legal abortion providers in a state with 26 million people.

I will never forget watching Lesli Simms testify that night, after State Affairs committee chair Byron Cook told the crowd he was growing tired of our “repetitive” testimony—growing tired of Texans’ abortion stories, of folks’ struggle to find affordable contraception, of hearing about heartbreaking but necessary decisions made to end wanted, but medically untenable, pregnancies.

“My presence isn’t repetitive,” Simms, a first-generation Texan, told Cook. Everyone was rapt. She gestured to the packed room and continued: “Their presence isn’t repetitive. I’m a Black woman, and I’m coming back.”

And she did come back—along with thousands of other Texans who refused to be cowed by the odds. When I talk about bravery, that’s what I mean: the resilience and determination of a people who knew they’d been dealt a losing hand from the get-go. Texas has been deep red for two decades, and the last six or so years have been particularly hard for moderate and liberal Texans alike, as the Tea Party has capitalized on white folks’ fears of an ever-diversifying Texas and of a Black president who will stop at nothing to take away their guns. The game’s been rigged by racist redistricting and voter identification laws meant to dissuade minority voters from exercising their most basic rights as Americans.

And yet still they came.

Over the next week, a thundercloud of orange settled over the state capitol building as Texans from all walks of life gathered to watch our indomitable pro-choice legislators fight for every minute they could find before sine e die, the end of the special legislative session. It’s usually chilly in the capitol building; not so last summer. The heat of a thousand angry—joyfully angry—bodies filled the house and senate galleries, and those who couldn’t snag a coveted seat inside to watch the action set up watch outside chamber doors.

The threat was so, so real: at any moment, we could make the wrong move and send SB 5 into the hands of Republican and Tea Party legislators who would pass the bill without hesitation.

But that thundercloud of orange held fast; by the morning of June 25, only Wendy Davis and 13 hours stood between SB 5’s looming passage and midnight, when Gov. Rick Perry would be forced to call another special session if his party wanted to take up the legislation again.

You know what happened next. You know Davis stood for 13 hours. You know she read the testimony of Texans who’d been turned away from that State Affairs meeting, You know she was reprimanded for putting on a back brace and for talking about family planning funding cuts—not “germane,” apparently, to the matter at hand: whether Texans would ever again be free to decide their own reproductive futures.

You know that with just fifteen minutes left before midnight, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte stood, defiant, and demanded to know: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be heard above the male colleagues in the room?”

You know that moment was when the thundercloud turned into a raging storm, with hundreds of Texans inside the senate gallery and hundreds and hundreds more outside screaming, chanting, and clapping with such ferocity that right-wing legislators couldn’t hear to take a final-moment vote. You know that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tried to change the timestamp on the final vote; you know that sometime in the wee morning hours of June 26, the good news came: SB 5 was dead.

When my husband and I stopped on the way home to grab dinner from the HEB—ranch dip, if I recall, and chips and salsa—I could see dawn hinting at the horizon.

“Were y’all down there? At the capitol?” our cashier asked. We said we were. We left with ranch dip, salsa, and fist-bumps from employees who’d been watching the filibuster from their break room and on their phones inside the store.

But a matter of days later, we were back at the capitol again: this time with thousands of orange-clad Texans swarming the state capitol lawn. Gov. Perry had called a second special session, and this time he came to pass the bill at all costs. Perry jammed the capitol with state troopers, hoping to subdue what David Dewhurst had derided as an “unruly mob.” Anti-choice groups bussed in students from out of state, and evangelical preachers convened in the outdoor rotunda, turning what had been a place of quiet refuge for overwhelmed protestors into a circle of soapbox misogyny.

And, you know, it worked. What was SB 5 became HB 2, and this time the Republican Party wasn’t going to be caught off-guard by a bunch of scrappy liberals. They confiscated our tampons at the senate chamber doors, and accused us of trying to bring 18—18!—jars of human feces into the senate gallery, jars which to this day have never turned up in evidence. And they passed the bill, just before midnight on July 12.

I filed my news story—”Texas Senate Approves Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill“—from a crowded hallway somewhere on the third floor of the capitol building. Floors below me, state troopers began arresting—sometimes violently—the protestors who refused to leave, in last-ditch acts of civil disobedience. People streamed by me, sobbing. On the capitol lawn outside, we milled around, wondering what—anything please what—we could do next. But the night was over.

I woke up on the morning of July 13—a Saturday—feeling broken, enraged, helpless. Even after a few hours’ sleep, I was more exhausted than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Days before, I’d made the mistake of telling my husband I’d have brunch with his father-in-law and some of his work colleagues. When it came time to get out of bed, I didn’t even bother. I don’t know what I told my husband to tell the guys. I didn’t really give a fuck. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to cry, I wanted to fall through the mattress, through the floor, through the crawlspace, through the dirt, down deep into the Texas soil beneath our house and nest there, hide where no one could tell me it was time to go to another meeting, time to file another story, time to gather up my shit and move to another hearing room, time to plead with lawmakers who couldn’t even be bothered to pretend to half-listen to reason, lawmakers who played on their phones and passed notes while my fellow Texans broke their hearts open between pink limestone walls, telling stories they’d never even whispered aloud before that summer.

So I slept, and then I ate some Lipton instant rice with about half a tub of sour cream on top. That’s what I eat when I’m sad. Lipton instant Spanish rice. Daisy Light sour cream. I think I Instagrammed it before I went back to sleep, grudgingly setting my alarm for 4 p.m. Because I had another thing to do: drink beer. And I dreaded it.

Which is, uh, unusual for me. Let’s say that. Unusual. “Dread” and “drink beer” are about as far apart as two things can get on my emotional spectrum. But the Saturday after HB 2 finally passed was the same Saturday I’d scheduled our usual Austin feminist meet-up—really, more of a “drink up” group that’d been meeting monthly since November 2011. We called it #ATXFem, most of us knew each other from Twitter, and it had come to be sort of a thing. We’d wear name tags, drink beers, do feminist coloring projects, talk shit, organize. And for the first time in more than 18 months, I didn’t want to go hang out and get drunk with a bunch of feminists.

But #ATXFem is sort of my baby. So I dragged my ass out of bed, threw on my “Wendy F’N Davis” tank top, and arrived late to my own Internet nerd party.

When I walked into the bar, all I could see was orange. The Dog & Duck, a malty-smelling pub just a few blocks from the state capitol building, was packed from, well, dog to duck with people wearing orange t-shirts. I didn’t make it to the beer line for ten minutes—there were too many hugs, too many tears. That Saturday was our biggest #ATXFem meeting yet, and we closed down the bar making plans for what to do next: where to donate, who to call, who to write.

Since that day, I have seen nothing that looks like a loss of passion or a surrender to the inevitable, though GOP pundits and mainstream Texas newspapers seem to love the narrative that progressive, liberal and moderate Texans forgot everything they learned last summer as soon as they were home safe, tucked in their beds.

What I have seen is an incredible outpouring of time, of money, of soul. Because the knowledge that Texans gained last summer—how to testify in front of a committee hearing, how to contact their legislators, hell, how to just know the names of their representatives—can’t be taken away from them. They now see how the system works, and how the system has been manipulated by right-wing lawmakers who have grown lazy and self-satisfied, comfortable with their bully pulpit.

Who can say that Texans have lost faith, when 19,000 people sent comments opposing HB 2 to the state Department of State Health Services (DSHS), demanding our health-care regulators do whatever they could to mitigate the damage done by the new law? Never in its history had DSHS received that many comments on any new regulations. That, to me, does not signal surrender.

Nor did it signal surrender when, in February, Texans lined up once again to testify before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee’s interim legislative hearing, scheduled by right-wing lawmakers to be an assessment of their own “legislative achievements” in women’s health care. Instead, the orange army turned up once again, anxious to discuss the terrible impact of Republican-fueled family planning funding cuts and the clockwork-like shuttering of abortion clinics in the wake of HB 2.

Is Fund Texas Women  a new nonprofit organization—started by a 20-year-old Austin woman—that helps rural Texans pay for the bus tickets and hotel rooms they now need in order to travel hundreds of miles roundtrip for legal abortion procedures, an act of forgetting? The nascent West Fund now operates out of El Paso, helping West Texans with the resources they need to access legal abortion in a part of the state that has seen the closure of three abortion providers in the last year.

Nor has Nuestro Texas, a collaborative study and storytelling project from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights, shied away from calling what havoc legislators have wrought in the Rio Grande Valley—rising and troubling reproductive organ cancer rates, rapidly shuttering family planning clinics that never even provided abortion care—a “human rights violation.”

When I traveled to East Texas earlier this spring to cover the closure of the Beaumont Whole Woman’s Health clinic—the last abortion provider in East Texas—I talked to college students who’d felt empowered to finally start a feminist club on the Lamar University campus, and University of Texas at Tyler students who told me they tuned into the filibuster last year, online, day after day. They told me that last summer has made it easier, just a little bit easier, for people to see shades of purple behind the pine curtain.

I know Battleground Texas volunteers in Dallas and Fort Worth who show up, week after week, to phone bank and block-walk for people like Sameena Karmally, the North Texas woman who is boldly challenging HB 2 sponsor Jodie “Rape Kits Clean A Woman Out” Laubenberg’s house seat. I see the Lilith FundNARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and the TEA Fund going stronger than ever before, organizing fundraisers and advocacy trainings for folks in Houston, San Antonio, and across the state.

I have seen Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, return to court time and time again for her right—and for other abortion providers’ rights—to provide legal abortion care in the State of Texas, despite the looming shadow of the anti-choice Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Two abortion providers in Dallas, whose clinics are doomed to shutter this September when HB 2’s mandatory ambulatory surgical center operational requirements go into place, successfully sued a hospital that tried to revoke their admitting privileges because they provide legal abortion care.

What Texans learned last summer can’t be unlearned. The passion they felt won’t be diminished, and they cannot and will not be unbound from their comrades in reproductive justice now. As I discovered that day last July, after I had lost all sense of purpose, any glimmer of hope: We now have thousands of sisters, brothers, family members, across the state who know what it is to proceed against all odds in righteous, joyous anger.

Come and take it.

News Law and Policy

Texas Lawmaker’s ‘Coerced Abortion’ Campaign ‘Wildly Divorced From Reality’

Teddy Wilson

Anti-choice groups and lawmakers in Texas are charging that coerced abortion has reached epidemic levels, citing bogus research published by researchers who oppose legal abortion care.

A Texas GOP lawmaker has teamed up with an anti-choice organization to raise awareness about the supposed prevalence of forced or coerced abortion, which critics say is “wildly divorced from reality.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) during a press conference at the state capitol on July 13 announced an effort to raise awareness among public officials and law enforcement that forced abortion is illegal in Texas.

White said in a statement that she is proud to work alongside The Justice Foundation (TJF), an anti-choice group, in its efforts to tell law enforcement officers about their role in intervening when a pregnant person is being forced to terminate a pregnancy. 

“Because the law against forced abortions in Texas is not well known, The Justice Foundation is offering free training to police departments and child protective service offices throughout the State on the subject of forced abortion,” White said.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

White was joined at the press conference by Allan Parker, the president of The Justice Foundation, a “Christian faith-based organization” that represents clients in lawsuits related to conservative political causes.

Parker told Rewire that by partnering with White and anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), TJF hopes to reach a wider audience.

“We will partner with anyone interested in stopping forced abortions,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re expanding it to police, social workers, and in the fall we’re going to do school counselors.”

White only has a few months remaining in office, after being defeated in a closely contested Republican primary election in March. She leaves office after serving one term in the state GOP-dominated legislature, but her short time there was marked by controversy.

During the Texas Muslim Capitol Day, she directed her staff to “ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.”

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in an email to Rewire that White’s education initiative overstates the prevalence of coerced abortion. “Molly White’s so-called ‘forced abortion’ campaign is yet another example that shows she is wildly divorced from reality,” Busby said.

There is limited data on the how often people are forced or coerced to end a pregnancy, but Parker alleges that the majority of those who have abortions may be forced or coerced.

‘Extremely common but hidden’

“I would say that they are extremely common but hidden,” Parker said. “I would would say coerced or forced abortion range from 25 percent to 60 percent. But, it’s a little hard be to accurate at this point with our data.”

Parker said that if “a very conservative 10 percent” of the about 60,000 abortions that occur per year in Texas were due to coercion, that would mean there are about 6,000 women per year in the state that are forced to have an abortion. Parker believes that percentage is much higher.

“I believe the number is closer to 50 percent, in my opinion,” Parker said. 

There were 54,902 abortions in Texas in 2014, according to recently released statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The state does not collect data on the reasons people seek abortion care. 

White and Parker referenced an oft cited study on coerced abortion pushed by the anti-choice movement.

“According to one published study, sixty-four percent of American women who had abortions felt forced or unduly pressured by someone else to have an unwanted abortion,” White said in a statement.

This statistic is found in a 2004 study about abortion and traumatic stress that was co-authored by David Reardon, Vincent Rue, and Priscilla Coleman, all of whom are among the handful of doctors and scientists whose research is often promoted by anti-choice activists.

The study was cited in a report by the Elliot Institute for Social Sciences Research, an anti-choice organization founded by Reardon. 

Other research suggests far fewer pregnant people are coerced into having an abortion.

Less than 2 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 2004 reported that a partner or parent wanting them to abort was the most important reason they sought the abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.

That same report found that 24 percent of women surveyed in 1987 and 14 percent surveyed in 2004 listed “husband or partner wants me to have an abortion” as one of the reasons that “contributed to their decision to have an abortion.” Eight percent in 1987 and 6 percent in 2004 listed “parents want me to have an abortion” as a contributing factor.

‘Flawed research’ and ‘misinformation’  

Busby said that White used “flawed research” to lobby for legislation aimed at preventing coerced abortions in Texas.

“Since she filed her bogus coerced abortion bill—which did not pass—last year, she has repeatedly cited flawed research and now is partnering with the Justice Foundation, an organization known to disseminate misinformation and shameful materials to crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said.  

White sponsored or co-sponsored dozens of bills during the 2015 legislative session, including several anti-choice bills. The bills she sponsored included proposals to increase requirements for abortion clinics, restrict minors’ access to abortion care, and ban health insurance coverage of abortion services.

White also sponsored HB 1648, which would have required a law enforcement officer to notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if they received information indicating that a person has coerced, forced, or attempted to coerce a pregnant minor to have or seek abortion care.

The bill was met by skepticism by both Republican lawmakers and anti-choice activists.

State affairs committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) told White during a committee hearing the bill needed to be revised, reported the Texas Tribune.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

‘Very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem’

White testified before the state affairs committee that there is a connection between women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence and women who are coerced to have an abortion. “Pregnant women are most frequently victims of domestic violence,” White said. “Their partners often threaten violence and abuse if the woman continues her pregnancy.”

There is research that suggests a connection between coerced abortion and domestic and sexual violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, told the American Independent that coerced abortion cannot be removed from the discussion of reproductive coercion.

“Coerced abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of a much larger problem, which is violence against women and the impact it has on her health,” Miller said. “To focus on the minutia of coerced abortion really takes away from the really broad problem of domestic violence.”

A 2010 study co-authored by Miller surveyed about 1,300 men and found that 33 percent reported having been involved in a pregnancy that ended in abortion; 8 percent reported having at one point sought to prevent a female partner from seeking abortion care; and 4 percent reported having “sought to compel” a female partner to seek an abortion.

Another study co-authored by Miller in 2010 found that among the 1,300 young women surveyed at reproductive health clinics in Northern California, about one in five said they had experienced pregnancy coercion; 15 percent of the survey respondents said they had experienced birth control sabotage.

‘Tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion’

TJF’s so-called Center Against Forced Abortions claims to provide legal resources to pregnant people who are being forced or coerced into terminating a pregnancy. The website includes several documents available as “resources.”

One of the documents, a letter addressed to “father of your child in the womb,” states that that “you may not force, coerce, or unduly pressure the mother of your child in the womb to have an abortion,” and that you could face “criminal charge of fetal homicide.”

The letter states that any attempt to “force, unduly pressure, or coerce” a women to have an abortion could be subject to civil and criminal charges, including prosecution under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The document cites the 2007 case Lawrence v. State as an example of how one could be prosecuted under Texas law.

“What anti-choice activists are doing here is really egregious,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire’s vice president of Law and the Courts. “They are using a case where a man intentionally shot his pregnant girlfriend and was charged with murder for both her death and the death of the fetus as an example of reproductive coercion. That’s not reproductive coercion. That is extreme domestic violence.”

“To use a horrific case of domestic violence that resulted in a woman’s murder as cover for yet another anti-abortion restriction is the very definition of callousness,” Mason Pieklo added.

Among the other resources that TJF provides is a document produced by Life Dynamics, a prominent anti-choice organization based in Denton, Texas.

Parker said a patient might go to a “pregnancy resource center,” fill out the document, and staff will “send that to all the abortionists in the area that they can find out about. Often that will stop an abortion. That’s about 98 percent successful, I would say.”

Reproductive rights advocates contend that the document is intended to mislead pregnant people into believing they have signed away their legal rights to abortion care.

Abortion providers around the country who are familiar with the document said it has been used for years to deceive and intimidate patients and providers by threatening them with legal action should they go through with obtaining or providing an abortion.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, previously told Rewire that abortion providers from across the country have reported receiving the forms.

“It’s just another tactic to intimidate and coerce women into not choosing to have an abortion—tricking women into thinking they have signed this and discouraging them from going through with their initial decision and inclination,” Saporta said.

Busby said that the types of tactics used by TFJ and other anti-choice organizations are a form of coercion.

“Everyone deserves to make decisions about abortion free of coercion, including not being coerced by crisis pregnancy centers,” Busby said. “Anyone’s decision to have an abortion should be free of shame and stigma, which crisis pregnancy centers and groups like the Justice Foundation perpetuate.”

“Law enforcement would be well advised to seek their own legal advice, rather than rely on this so-called ‘training,” Busby said.

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.