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Celebrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court in June, 2016. (Photo: Center for Reproductive Rights)

After 'Pivotal Year' for Reproductive Rights, Advocates Ready for Trump-Era Battles

Despite major Supreme Court victory, 2016 saw the enactment of at least 60 bills restricting access to reproductive healthcare across the country

Deirdre Fulton

2016 was a "pivotal year" for women's health, according to a 50-state report card released Monday by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR)—and given signals from the incoming Trump administration, "2017 will undoubtedly bring new challenges and new opportunities for action."

This year brought a historic U.S. Supreme Court victory in Whole Woman's Health v Hellerstedt, which CRR president Nancy Northup described as "the most important abortion rights ruling in a generation." The decision struck a major blow to the more than 300 abortion restrictions—also known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws—enacted by state legislatures since 2011. 

But 2016 also saw the enactment of at least 60 bills restricting access to reproductive healthcare across the country, and the introduction of hundreds more—including nearly 100 bills linked to the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood alone.

These included Flordia's HB 1411, "a harmful omnibus anti-abortion law that places additional restrictions and onerous requirements on abortion providers, jeopardizing their ability to provide reproductive healthcare services," according to CRR; Louisiana's "unprecedented" seven bills restricting abortion (the most passed by any state in 2016); and Oklahoma's "Humanity of the Unborn Child Act," which requires the state Department of Health to develop and distribute materials "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society."

What's more, CRR notes in its report (pdf): "Reproductive rights advocates must use Whole Woman's Health to dismantle each and every sham abortion restriction on the books to ensure that every woman gets high-quality reproductive healthcare without interference from politicians—and that won't happen overnight."

Not to mention that many of this year's salvos were issued even before the election of Donald Trump (and his anti-choice ticketmate Mike Pence), which appears to have further emboldened anti-abortion legislators. 

Following comments Trump made just days after his election in November, Northup said: "Our country now stands perilously close to a return to the dark days when women were forced to put their own lives at risk to get safe and legal abortion care."

As such, Northup warned on Monday, "As we embark on 2017, we must hold our leaders accountable to the constitutional protections guaranteed in Whole Woman's Health.  A woman's ability to access basic reproductive healthcare services like contraception or a safe, legal abortion are essential to her health and well-being. It's more important now than ever that elected officials at all levels of government stand up against this decades-long crusade to eliminate women's reproductive healthcare services."

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