The fierce state-by-state fight to protect access to abortion
Today the Senate must confirm Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden on Putin: ‘A Dignified Opponent’ McConnell Starts New Fight in Supreme Court McConnell signals GOP will block Biden’s Supreme Court choice in ’24 MORE to the Supreme Court of the United States in a process that is as important as it is swift. This is more than an appointment to the Supreme Court. Trump’s three appointments radically altered the balance of our nation’s highest court, putting it on a collision course with the needs and will of the vast majority of this country.
If vice-president Joe bidenJoe Biden Japan to potentially ease COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Olympics 14 Republicans vote against making June a federal holiday China provides millions of doses of vaccine to developing countries in Asia MORE and sen. Kamala harrisKamala Harris It’s high time to elect black woman governor Manchin pushes back gradual push for infrastructure guarantee It’s time for domestic workers to have rights MORE (D-Calif.) Winning the election – as I desperately hope they will – then surely they will have to face the lurch of federal justice to the right. Federal solutions are needed and can help restore access to those who have been targeted by abortion attacks – low-income women, young women, women of color and those living in rural communities.
But federal solutions alone are not enough.
The place where access to abortion is ultimately decided is the state government – which is also a place where voters have powerful and direct influence. Roe v. Wade made abortion legal across the country, a move that voters support and want to see supported Yet since then state legislatures have enacted more than 1,200 laws that dictate the parameters of abortion access – onerous and medically unwarranted laws that delay abortion care, make it more expensive, shut down clinics and generally put abortion care out of reach.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we faced a federal court system hostile to reproductive rights and a Supreme Court that we thought was about to overthrow Roe. What did we do then? Advocates and elected officials worked to pass laws protecting abortion rights in half a dozen states, and voters fired a president accountable to the anti-abortion movement.
I would say we are on the same track again. In the 2018 midterm elections, voters elected a host of candidates who came out loud and clear in favor of access to abortion. The result? 2019 was a pivotal year, with a record number of states adopting proactive abortion policies. Starting with the adoption of the Reproductive Health Act in New York followed by Illinois, Rhode Island, Vermont, Nevada and Maine.
In the Virginia election in 2019, voters secured a triumphant Democratic government determined to act on this issue In a few months, these lawmakers have repealed a host of medically unwarranted decisions restrictions adopted during the previous decade. And the bills now pending in Massachusetts and New Jersey could protect these rights and remove unfair and discriminatory barriers to care for some of the most vulnerable among us.
It is time for states – and voters – to redouble their efforts to protect rights and ensure access to reproductive health care.
This state-to-state struggle can be long and arduous, but it is also absolutely necessary. It will not only establish the laws and policies we need, it will create the public investment and political accountability to support them.
A historic number of people go to great lengths to vote in this election – despite attempts to suppress and minimize those votes. It’s part of the drive for accountability and change – and a repudiation of Trump’s dangerous, backward-looking agenda embodied by his Supreme Court appointments.
If you have not yet voted, you have one week left to participate in this count. Remember, your state governors and lawmakers need your vote as much as we need Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and a reverse US Senate. And then, in January, let’s get to work to protect our rights at all levels of government.
Andrea Miller is the president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) and its Action Fund, which fights to protect and advance access to reproductive health care and strengthen political power for reproductive freedom. Miller has served for more than two decades as a director and consultant to a multitude of nonprofit, advocacy and philanthropic organizations.