Our elected representatives must push bills forward that increase and protect abortion access.
Less than a month into the new year, elected officials across the country are returning to work and kicking off new legislative sessions. One priority should be rising to the top as a key focus for the year ahead: access to abortion. As we saw after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, when there is political will, there is a way to pass proactive policies to protect and expand access to abortion.
In the first 90 days following the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, an incredible 17 states and at least 24 localities took action to protect and expand abortion care. Four states and at least 11 localities tackled financial barriers to abortion; four states and at least 12 localities moved to protect against abortion-related prosecution; four states and at least one locality expanded where and by whom abortions can be provided.
From Boise, Idaho, to Radnor Township, Pa., to Nashville County, Tenn., elected leaders took their charge seriously to address the worsening harms caused by the fall of Roe. The momentum continued in September when the New York City Council passed the Abortion Access Fund Initiative to assist pregnant people traveling to New York for abortion care. It did not stop in December, as the city of Philadelphia passed three bills to expand protections for people seeking reproductive health care.
Abortion access is overwhelmingly popular, and when state and local legislative bodies make these policies a priority, we see meaningful results that help meet urgent needs.
Again and again, we see just how popular abortion access is: This same momentum carried voters to the polls in November, where an overwhelming number of individuals cast their ballot for leaders committed to doing their part to protect access to reproductive freedom while in office. Six states had abortion rights on ballot measures. Voters in every single one—Kansas, Kentucky, California, Michigan, Montana and Vermont—voted strongly in favor of the right to abortion. While this is a wonderfully promising avenue, largely thanks to the incredible work of advocates on the ground, successful ballot initiatives cannot and should not let elected leaders off the hook to ensure constituents have meaningful access to care.
To be clear: Abortion access is overwhelmingly popular, and when state and local legislative bodies make these policies a priority, we see meaningful results that help meet urgent needs. Now more than ever, leaders at the state and local levels have the responsibility to ensure our basic most fundamental freedoms are realized and that every person has meaningful access to the reproductive health care they need, including abortion.
As we look to the start of 2023 legislative sessions, we’re already seeing positive signs of things to come: in Minnesota, HF 1, a bill to codify the right to abortion, has already cleared its first legislative hurdle and is moving its way through committee. In Michigan, newly reelected Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) has called on the state legislature to repeal the outdated abortion ban. In Illinois, the state house wasted no time in passing a bill to expand abortion access at the beginning of the session. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has renewed calls to remove the state’s 1849 law banning abortions.
Successful ballot initiatives cannot and should not let elected leaders off the hook to ensure constituents have meaningful access to care.
While each of these steps forward are critical, millions are still left without abortion access—disproportionately harming already marginalized communities.
As we approach the first year in nearly 50 without the federal protections Roe offered, local and state leaders have a clear mandate to follow the science and meaningfully expand abortion access. There is still so much more we can and must do to ensure all who need abortion care can access it—and elected representatives have no excuse to not push proactive bills forward.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.