New Report Finds that Nearly Every State Moved Proactive Policies to Advance Reproductive Freedom in 2017, Serving as a Counterweight to Harmful Federal Action

January 2, 2018
Contact: Stephanie Reichin
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M: 617.549.3745

National Institute for Reproductive Health notes key advances for abortion rights, access to contraception, and other affirmative policies that support healthy pregnancies and parenting

New York – A new report released today by the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) shows that throughout 2017 – as a counterweight to the harmful aggressions from the federal government – a record number of states acted to advance reproductive health, rights, and justice policies for their residents. Since January 2017, 645 proactive reproductive health, rights, and justice bills were introduced in 49 states and the District of Columbia – of these, 86 bills were enacted, while an additional 121 passed at least one committee in a state legislature. Gaining Ground: Proactive Reproductive Health and Rights Legislation in the States, NIRH’s fourth annual report on this subject, explores these gains.

“We’re used to hearing about how states are restricting access to abortion, and that is still too often the case,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “But there’s another side to that story that’s gaining ground: while the federal government works to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the president sets his sights on dismantling the protections of Roe v. Wade, elected officials in nearly every state took some action in 2017 to advance reproductive rights, health, and justice. This growing momentum is thanks to the tremendous ground game and tireless commitment among advocates and legislative champions working at the state level all across the country to turn the tide and begin to advance reproductive freedom, as a reflection of what the vast majority of residents in their states want and need.”

Extensive groundwork by NIRH and its state and national partners contributed to the significant uptick from 2016, which saw legislative action from only 36 states on 191 proactive policies. In particular, there was more proactive legislation enacted to expand abortion access in 2017 than in any previous year in recent memory.

Throughout 2017, NIRH tracked proactive policies across seven categories: expanding access to abortion care, improving access to contraception; increasing access to pregnancy care; ensuring reproductive health care coverage for all (including for abortion and contraception); promoting comprehensive sexuality education for all young people; supporting parents and families; and prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive decisions or health status. The report also suggests seven bold policy priorities that states should consider for 2018.

Significant trends of 2017 include:

  • Securing abortion rights and access on the state level to mitigate the federal hostility to abortion access and concerns about the security of the protections of Roe v. Wade: Oregon enacted the Reproductive Equity Act ensuring coverage for a full range of reproductive health services; Illinois passed HB 40, restoring insurance coverage for abortion for residents who qualify for Medicaid or are state employees; Delaware passed Senate Bill 5, which repeals unconstitutional portions of the state’s pre-Roe abortion law and establishes clear protections for abortion access in the state; Idaho complied with a court ruling repealing limitations on access to medication abortion; New York secured insurance coverage for abortion through governor’s regulations; and Hawaii enacted a law to mitigate the deceitful practices of “crisis pregnancy centers” seeking to prevent women from seeking abortions.
  • Supporting affordable contraception in the face of the Trump Administration and Congress’s attempts to dismantle the ACA: States acted to preserve and/or improve upon the ACA’s birth control coverage benefit. California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington all enacted proactive measures to support their residents’ access to contraception through a variety of policy measures.
  • “Red” states taking action to advance reproductive freedom: Arkansas adopted a resolution to submit a plan to extend Medicaid and Medicare services to pregnant immigrant women; Missouri introduced 28 proactive bills; South Carolina introduced 5 proactive bills; Tennessee introduced 20 bills; and Utah introduced 8 bills. In Texas, advocates and legislators came together to introduce a record 78 proactive bills, of which 14 advanced and four became law.

“The great progress of the last year is the result of state advocates and policymakers standing firmly against the onslaught from the federal government,” said Miller. “Together, we are harnessing the momentum created in 2017 and the widespread opposition to the federal government’s hostile agenda. As we head into 2018 and the second year of Trump’s presidency, NIRH and our partners in states across the country are eager and ready to continue to push to advance reproductive freedom.”