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State Legislators Prepared to Uphold and Expand Reproductive Freedom in 2020

State Innovation Exchange holds cross-state legislator planning session in anticipation of 2020’s big reproductive rights battles

In 2019 state legislatures witnessed an explosion of reproductive health restrictions including abortion bans, constraints on contraceptive coverage, and overall hostility toward women’s health. The State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) reproductive rights team and other national partners facilitated an overview of the major reproductive rights policies passed in 2019 and a preview of anticipated reproductive rights battles in 2020 for their Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council (RFLC).

The RFLC is a first of its kind cohort of over 425 state legislators across 46 states who endorse a Vision and Values Platform and receive access to invitation-only educational events, trainings, and media opportunities.  The RFLC network shows that despite the ongoing attacks on abortion care, there is a bold, committed cohort of legislators ready to protect and expand our freedoms.

This most recent online training brought together a diverse cross-section of state legislators who view protecting and expanding reproductive health, rights, and justice as larger than the headline-grabbing abortion bans; their sights are also set on opening up proactive state strategies like contraceptive equity and expanding maternal health and rights.

Core areas discussed included:

  • Contraceptive EquityNational Health Law Program reported that Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Maine, and West Virginia passed variations of contraceptive equity bills in 2019. Proactive bills promoting contraceptive equity have already been pre-filed in Florida and Missouri and many of the 2019 bills introduced across 20 states are still alive in their state legislatures. More details on state contraceptive equity legislation can be found here.
  • Maternal Health and Rights: The Maternal Health & Rights Initiative of the Center for Reproductive Rights offered staggering evidence for the need for swift action to combat the crisis of rising maternal deaths in U.S. State legislators were encouraged to advance policies that would create diverse maternal mortality review committees; extend post-partum Medicaid coverage; support policies like paid family leave and pregnancy accommodations for incarcerated women; address bias in healthcare settings; and fight abortion restrictions. More on maternal health policy change can be found here.
  • State Abortion RestrictionsCenter for Reproductive Rights reports that 18 states enacted 46 laws restricting abortion in 2019 ranging from a total ban in Alabama; to trigger bans in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, which would take effect quickly if Roe is undermined; to gestational bans in eight states which would place an arbitrary gestational limit to abortion access (such as at  6-weeks, 8-weeks, or 18-weeks). The Center presented a new interactive map, What If Roe Fell, which provides a state-by-state breakdown of abortion bans, restrictions, and protections and offers predictions for what abortion access would look like if Roe v. Wade was struck down.
  • Proactive Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice LegislationNational Institute Reproductive Health reported that so far in 2019 there have been nearly 1,000 proactive bills introduced and significant legislative victories, particularly in advancing the fundamental right and access to abortion, in states such as California, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Other advances this year include 30 states taking steps to prohibit shackling and improve access to reproductive health care for incarcerated women, transgender men, and other people who can become pregnant.
  • Reproductive Rights Challenges in the Courts: The ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project provided an overview of the looming June Medical Services v. Gee case which could potentially leave Louisiana with only one abortion clinic for the entire state. The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 4, 2020.

This training caps a highly productive year for the RFLC:

  • Legislators responded to the abortion ban crisis while some key states were able to push to protect abortion. RFLC legislators from Georgia and Missouri (states that banned abortion) traveled to Illinois in May for a press conference to underscore the urgency of the issue of abortion bans in their states as Illinois considered the ultimately successful Reproductive Health Act.
  • The SiX Reproductive Rights Team held 15 in-state educational briefings/messaging trainings, and four national webinars, reaching 400 legislators.
  • In November, a delegation of state legislators from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio traveled to El Salvador on a fact-finding mission to witness firsthand the impacts on women and families of criminalizing abortion. Read more about the trip here.