Where Are We Headed With Reproductive Rights?S

Even with a pro-choice president and a Democratic-controlled Congress, it was a pretty rocky year for reproductive rights, thanks to crusading state officials and a handful of national-scale assholes. What can we expect for next year?

  • Well, for one thing, we're likely to see more of the state legislation that has been slowly chipping away at women's access to safe abortion care. "2010 has been one of the most challenging state legislative sessions for women's access to abortion in many years," according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. "States considered and enacted some of the most extreme restrictions on abortion in recent memory, as well as passing laws creating dozens of other significant new hurdles." That's included mandatory ultrasounds, forcing doctors to read scripts with political rather than medical language, and making access to later-term abortions more difficult. Here's a chart on state-by-state access. States that passed severe restrictions in 2010 included Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.
  • The next battle on the state legislative level, for those that haven't already fought it, is taking advantage of the Nelson Amendment to health care reform, which allows states to restrict coverage for abortion on their insurance exchanges.
  • One or more of the state restrictions may be challenged and make its way to the Supreme Court. That's basically the anti-choicer's fantasy. Even if they can't get the swing votes together to altogether topple Roe v. Wade, there's always the gray area — the last time abortion came before the court, the majority opinion significantly empowered those state legislators eager to incrementally undo Roe.
  • On the federal level, we have these lovely gentlemen who would like to make it harder for you to get an abortion if you need one — as well as limit the capability of pro-choice organizations to offer contraception and sex education services. They want to push the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which would make the Hyde Amendment permanent and arguably make it harder for private insurance to cover abortion. And anti-choice LifeNews identified the "Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act," to strip Planned Parenthood of money that doesn't even go to abortions, as being a top priority. Said Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest, "Number one on our list? Defund abortion HQ: Planned Parenthood," she said. "Congress could give taxpayers a gift by defunding Planned Parenthood. Eliminating their yearly federal subsidy of over $300 million should be one of Congress' top priorities." Access to contraception and comprehensive sex ed would be severely harmed if that were to happen. Still, it's unlikely to clear the Senate.
  • There was even some good news this year: the FDA approved Ella, a morning-after pill effective up to five days after sex (prescription only). And there are efforts underway for better contraceptive access: Planned Parenthood and other groups will be pushing to have birth control pills fully covered as preventative care under health care reform. If the Center for Reproductive Rights' prevails, the FDA may remove its arbitrary, culture-politicking requirement that young women under 17 get a prescription for the morning after pill.

But mostly, the sad reality is that reproductive rights will be fought on the defensive. Get ready!