As Congress Debates Abortion Coverage in Health-Care Reform, New Report Shows 2009 a Mix of Highs and Lows for Pro-Choice Americans in the States

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Ted Miller, 202.973.3032

As Congress Debates Abortion Coverage in Health-Care Reform, New Report Shows 2009 a Mix of Highs and Lows for Pro-Choice Americans in the States

WASHINGTON - NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation today released the 19th edition of Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States, the
nation's most comprehensive report on choice-related legislation and
court decisions.  This report, which comes as Congress continues to
debate abortion coverage in health-care reform, shows a mix of progress
and setbacks for choice across the country.

On the federal level, President Obama reversed anti-choice policies
enacted by the previous administration and nominated individuals with
pro-choice records to key federal positions. NARAL Pro-Choice America
also successfully worked with allies in Congress to lift a ban on
Washington, D.C.'s ability to use locally raised funds to provide
abortion services for low-income women, eliminate two discredited
"abstinence-only" programs, and increase funding for domestic and
international family-planning programs.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, said
that House and Senate passage of health-reform bills that include
provisions making it more difficult or virtually impossible for women
to buy insurance with abortion coverage in the new system overshadowed
the progress.

"For pro-choice Americans, 2009 was a roller-coaster ride," Keenan
said. "On one hand, we saw positive changes in policies that will make
a difference in the lives of women and their families. On the other
hand, anti-choice politicians used health reform to advance destructive
and divisive attacks on women's access to abortion coverage. The
challenges we face on health reform are a reminder that, despite our
success in changing the choice-related composition of Congress and a
pro-choice White House, anti-choice lawmakers still outnumber our
pro-choice allies. Every time we take a step forward we will face
unrelenting resistance from anti-choice politicians who will sink to
new lows to undermine women's freedom and privacy."

Keenan said the report outlined a similar combination of progress
and setbacks at the state level, including the following highlights:

Pro-Choice Progress:

  • In 2009, 14 states and Washington, D.C. enacted 21 pro-choice measures.
  • Wisconsin enacted a law that requires health-insurance plans that
    provide prescription-medication benefits to cover contraceptives and
    required pharmacists to fill valid birth-control prescriptions.
  • Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington enacted laws that improve sex education in schools.
  • Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors
    receive information about and access to emergency contraception in
    emergency rooms.

Anti-Choice Attacks:

  • Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors
    receive information about and access to emergency contraception in
    emergency rooms.
  • In 2009, 14 states enacted 29 anti-choice measures, increasing the
    number of anti-choice measures enacted in states since 1995 to 610.
  • Virginia enacted a law that establishes "Choose Life" license
    plates. A portion of the proceeds from these plates funds anti-choice
    organizations known as "crisis pregnancy centers" that target women
    considering abortion and often mislead, coerce, and intimidate them.

Arizona enacted a far-reaching law that includes a litany of
anti-choice provisions that, among other things, subject women to
state-mandated lectures and waiting periods that delay access to
abortion care. The law also allows certain individuals or entities to
refuse to provide abortion services and to refuse to provide or
dispense contraceptives.

Keenan cited Arizona as a prime example of how a change in a state's
political landscape can have real consequences for a woman's right to
choose. Even though a court intervened and stopped some of that state's
new anti-choice provisions from taking effect, the 2009 law caused
Arizona's grade on reproductive rights to drop from a B- to a D+.

"The departure of pro-choice champion Janet Napolitano from the
governor's mansion in Arizona illustrates the importance of having
elected leaders who stand up for a woman's right to choose," Keenan
said. "Arizona's new anti-choice governor is a willing participant in
attacks on women's privacy – a complete reversal of former Gov.
Napolitano's legacy as a defender of pro-choice values. That means
women are worse off today in Arizona than they were at this time last
year."

Keenan also said that NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation dedicated this edition of the Who Decides?
report to the late Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was
murdered inside his church in May, and his family, to all abortion-care
providers, and to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. 

The report, which includes a summary of federal and state laws as well as a ranking and grades of states, is available online.

 

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For more than 30 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been the nation's leading advocate for privacy and a woman's right to choose. With more than one million members and supporters, NARAL Pro-Choice America is fighting to protect the pro-choice values of freedom and privacy. With the Supreme Court one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade and many state legislatures under anti-choice control, our work has never been more important.

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