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.
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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 emergency—a 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 women—so 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.