Roundups Law and Policy

Six ‘Trailblazing’ Efforts to Counter Anti-Choice Restrictions in 2015

Ally Boguhn

In a year cram-packed with attacks on reproductive rights, a few pieces of legislation stood apart from the pack in their efforts to expand—not restrict—health-care services.

In a year cram-packed with attacks on reproductive rights, a few pieces of legislation stood apart from the pack in their efforts to expand—not restrict—health-care services.

In state legislatures alone, the year 2015 saw about 400 bills to restrict reproductive health care introduced and 47 measures enacted, according to an analysis from the Center for Reproductive Rights. Yet in coordination with local and national organizations, a few lawmakers attempted to counter the seemingly endless barrage of anti-choice bills being pushed around the country and in Washington, D.C. to stand up for a range of reproductive health necessities such as abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. 

1. The EACH Woman Act

In July, a group of congresswomen, in conjunction with a coalition of pro-choice advocates, introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act to ensure every woman with health insurance can access abortion, regardless of income or insurance. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), along with over 70 co-sponsors, signed onto the act, which could overturn the Hyde Amendment’s ban on the use of federal funds for abortion and undo laws in 25 states restricting private insurers from covering abortion. Millions of women who rely on the federal government for insurance would be affected should the bill pass, including the one in six women enrolled in Medicaid in the United States.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

2. Ohio’s Bills to Repeal the State’s Harsh Abortion Restrictions

Ohio legislators introduced a series of bills in October to repeal the state’s stringent abortion restrictions and increase women’s access to health care. The measures included efforts to eliminate Ohio’s requirement that abortion clinics have a transfer agreement with hospitals in case of emergencya restriction that led to the shuttering of half the state’s clinics.

“We are not damsels in distress tied to railroad tracks. We are the train, and we are carrying the message that we will not tolerate further infringement of a constitutionally protected right to abortion care,” Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) said while speaking about the legislation at a news conference.

3. Ohio’s Buffer Zone Bill

Ohio House Democrats responded to a wave of anti-choice violence, including the shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, by introducing a bill in December to create a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics to protect staff and patients from harassment.  

“No one should have to endure abuse and harassment for seeking legal medical care,” Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement on the measure. “Recent events have shaken some women in Ohio, but we are here today to assure women that we will do everything in our power to protect their right to access quality, comprehensive healthcare services.”

4. California’s Reproductive FACT Act

Pro-choice advocates and legislators in California were tired of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) lying to womenso in August they passed landmark legislation forcing CPCs to disclose to patients what their reproductive rights are. The California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act, AB 775, mandates CPCs inform patients of the state’s reproductive health-care programs, and requires them to disclose whether their clinics have licensed medical professionals on staff.

5. The 21st Century Women’s Health Act

Democrats in Congress started off the year with an ambitious measure to safeguard reproductive health-care access and expand services offered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as maternity and contraceptive coverage. The 21st Century Women’s Health Act, introduced by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), would enact a public health campaign to inform women of their reproductive health-care rights and benefits, and appoint a “women’s health ombudsperson” to protect those rights.

Speaking on a press call, Murray outlined the importance of pushing forward reproductive health gains. “As we continue to fight back against those who miss the Mad Men era, the 21st Century Women’s Health Act lays out important ways we can and should move forward on women’s health.”

6. Oregon’s Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill

In February, Oregon’s Comprehensive Women’s Health Bill, SB 894, was introduced with the backing of local groups to bring the state’s reproductive health-care policies in line with the ACA’s and ensure access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services. Although the “trailblazing” measure was ultimately spiked by Democratic leaders over its abortion language, the bill nevertheless stood out for its landmark efforts to require both public and private health insurance providers to cover contraception, abortion, prenatal care, and childbirth. Had the bill passed, Oregon would have become the first state in the nation to mandate all residents’ insurance provide every type of reproductive health care.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.