Politicians are comparing women's health to cars, attempting to criminalize pregnancy, and singling out abortion providers for surprise, medically unnecessary inspections. But over the past month, reproductive rights supporters also found a few reasons to celebrate. While it's undeniable that opponents continue their laser-like focus on ending abortion – legislators in 38 states have introduced more than 300 provisions seeking to limit women's access to care this year – in some places your voices are being heard and policymakers are standing up for women's health.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the March for Women's Lives, it's fitting to reflect on our successes that show how our activism does pay off and that we can hold accountable those who let politics trump women's health.
- The Nevada Republican Party dropped opposition to abortion from its platform.
Recognizing that continuing to interfere with a woman's personal, private medical decisions is a political liability not an asset, the party dropped its opposition to abortion, as well marriage for same-sex couples.
"Social issues just don't belong in our platform," the state party finance chairman told The Washington Post.
- West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill that would have made it a crime for a doctor to provide an abortion to a woman who needs one later in pregnancy.
After hearing from doctors and reproductive rights activists, the governor did the right thing. Here's what the Governor said when he vetoed the bill:
"I am advised, by not only attorneys from the legislature, but through my own legal team that this bill is unconstitutional...All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options. The medical community has made it clear to me that the criminal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice."
- The state of Maryland passed a common-sense law that protects pregnant inmates during childbirth, and Massachusetts is poised to do the same.
Shackling prisoners during pregnancy, which remains far too common a practice, puts both the mother and the baby at risk and interferes with the doctor's ability to provide the best medical care. With the passage of these laws, Maryland and Massachusetts will join more than a dozen other states with statutes regulating the shackling of pregnant inmates.
The Massachusetts bill's sponsor, Karen Spilka, put it simply:
"It is pretty clear that all women, I don't care if you are in prison or not, all women deserve a safe, healthy pregnancy, and a safe, healthy delivery."
- A federal judge overturned the nation's most extreme abortion ban
This month, a federal judge overturned North Dakota's ban on most abortions. This followed a similar ruling that struck down Arkansas's 12-week abortion ban, which the ACLU challenged in court. In both cases, the judges ruled that the bills were flatly unconstitutional.
- In a state where politicians routinely push abortion restrictions, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Doug Cox took his colleagues to task for putting politics above women's health:
During a committee hearing on a bill that would make it more difficult for young women to access emergency contraception, Cox told his fellow lawmakers, "This bill is prejudiced. ... A 14-year-old boy can go to the truck stop and buy all the condoms he wants. He can control his destiny. This bill takes the ability to control their destiny away from women. But that's what we do in the Republican Party these days."
Following that, he reiterated his disappointment with politicians who continue to try to interfere with a woman's private decision making, telling Salon that, "As a physician, that's what I most resent. The practice of medicine is between me and my patient — in an exam room behind a closed door. To have the government in there is very frustrating."
Check out the full interview here.
- A Dallas County judge blocked a hospital from discriminating against two doctors because they provide abortions.
A new Texas law requires abortion providers – but no other type of doctor – to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. We all want women to be safe, but these laws have little to do with patient care. They are designed by politicians, not doctors, to shut down clinics and to end access to safe, legal abortion.
In fact, major medical groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG), oppose laws like these because they don't further patient safety. When politicians single out doctors who provide abortions for regulations that the leading medical organizations say are unnecessary, we have to ask ourselves what is really going on here. Who is better qualified to set standards for medical care – the AMA and ACOG or the politicians in our state capitols?
If you need any more proof that this is about politics not women's health, just look at what the hospital said when they revoked the doctors' privileges :
"[Your] practice of performing [abortions] is disruptive ... [and] creates significant exposure and damages to [our] reputation within the community."
In other words, the hospital revoked the doctors' admitting privileges because they believe providing abortions is too controversial – not because of anything to do with their medical qualifications. This is a clear violation of the law, and it plays right into the hands of politicians who are focused on preventing a woman from making her own decision about her pregnancy.
Extremist politicians are determined to continue to try to pass medically unnecessary laws that prevent women from getting the care they need. But these successes show that we are determined too. We'll keep fighting to ensure that women can make the complex, personal decision about abortion with their families and their doctors – and without the interference of politicians.
With your help, we can make a difference.