Glamour: Abortion Rights Are Under Attack, but Some States Are Fighting Back
This session NC introduced a bill that would protect patients seeking abortions. It didn't even reach committee. In other states, protections are faring better.
Despite the threats to reproductive rights at the federal level, state legislators are finding ways to protect women. States have always been vital to expanding and restricting reproductive rights. Before Roe v. Wade in 1973, for example, states decided the legality of abortion, and only three had repealed their abortion lawsby the time the landmark decision was made. But while Roe v. Wade took away one decision for states, according to Gloria Totten, the founder and president of a policy and leadership center called the Public Leadership Institute (PLI), plenty of other legislation that threatens women—attacks on Planned Parenthood, shutting down abortion clinics, and enacting bans on specific procedures—often starts at the state level. However, the reverse is true too, and state lawmakers are harnessing their power to enact policies that protect and expand women’s reproductive health rights.
For example, New Mexico just approved a new policy whereby pharmacists can directly prescribe women birth control, a move officials say will help women in the largely rural state have better access to contraception. Democratic lawmakers in Nevada are working to pass a bill that would require all insurers to cover patients’ contraception, regardless of a business owner’s religion. They also just passed legislation to make insurers cover 12 months of birth control at a time without copayments; Colorado recently signed a similar bill into law, and Virginia has one in the works.
With abortion rights threatened by a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives, it's state lawmakers who will have to step up if Roe v. Wade is dismantled. The state of Maryland just enacted legislation to guarantee Planned Parenthood funding in the event that the federal government cuts it. Oregon is looking to pass a law that would require all insurers to cover abortions in the state regardless of a person’s gender, income, or citizenship status. Meanwhile, Illinois is trying to undo a “trigger law” that would outlaw and criminalize abortion if the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision was ever overturned, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed writing a woman’s right to an abortion into the state constitution—a major achievement for a state whose biggest city has been called “The Abortion Capital of America” for its centuries-old progressive views on the issue.
But there’s a long way to go before every state actually respects reproductive rights. Each of these bills faces resistance from antiabortion activists, but tensions between community activists and lawmakers who are trying to pass actual reproductive rights legislation can be just as damaging to the process.