“Someone you know, someone in your family, or someone you love currently relies on or will need abortion, contraception, gender-affirming care or other essential healthcare,” said Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), who is leading the resolution.
On Thursday, June 29, Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) introduced a resolution in Congress opposing the criminalization of sexual and reproductive healthcare in states across the country. The resolution criticizes the “the use of State power against people in the United States seeking essential health care” and “State punishment of people for their pregnancy outcomes.”
“Someone you know, someone in your family, or someone you love currently relies on or will need abortion, contraception, gender-affirming care or other essential healthcare,” said Williams, vice chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. “Criminalizing reproductive healthcare only puts up barriers to care, resulting in millions of people suffering, with marginalized communities suffering the most.”
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, 14 states have banned abortion at fertilization, another six states have banned abortion early in pregnancy and five states have passed bans currently blocked by courts. Twenty states have now banned gender-affirming care, although legal challenges have succeeded in stopping bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. Conservative states are also restricting access to contraception.
“These dangerous political restrictions being enacted against abortion care and gender-affirming care, and the ongoing threats on access to contraceptive care, make clear that no one is safe,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health. “It is time for members of Congress to send an unequivocal message that no matter someone’s health care needs or the pregnancy outcomes they experience, no one should be criminalized for getting the care they need. People deserve compassion, not judgment, stigma, or punishment.”
The resolution has 73 total original co-sponsors and is being co-led by Reps. Alma S. Adams (D-N.C.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are introducing companion legislation in the Senate next week.
The resolution reads in part:
“The House of Representatives condemns the application of criminal laws to punish people for the outcomes of their pregnancies; affirms that people deserve access to high-quality health care without fear of reprisal or punishment; condemns the criminalization of providing or supporting essential health care; affirms the ethical obligations of health care providers to safeguard patient privacy and the private medical information integral to the patient-provider relationship; and declares a vision for a future in which the ability of patients to access sexual and reproductive health care including abortion, contraception, and gender-affirming care, is universally free from restrictions bans, and barriers; and people are able to exercise self-determination in their reproductive and sexual health; and manage care on their own terms, free from coercion, discrimination, or punishment…”
The resolution is endorsed by 73 civil, reproductive and women’s rights organizations including Physicians for Reproductive Health, If/When/How, the National Center for Transgender Equality, NARAL, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Guttmacher Institute and the Feminist Women’s Health Center.
“Feminist Women’s Health Center is deeply concerned about the rising trend of criminalizing reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care. Both are threats to our individual bodily autonomy and our ability to provide lifesaving care that transforms people’s futures,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center. “We must do everything we can to protect patients and providers from prosecution under these tyrannical laws. Our communities deserve unfettered access to safe, affordable and compassionate healthcare where they live.”
Even before Dobbs, research by Lynn Paltrow of Pregnancy Justice (formerly National Advocates for Pregnant Women) uncovered hundreds of criminal prosecutions of women for pregnancy outcomes.
“Right now, across the country, the threat of criminalization is deterring people from seeking medical care when they need it,” said Sara L. Ainsworth, J.D, senior legal and policy director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice. “No one should have to fear being arrested, investigated or jailed for their pregnancy outcomes or for seeking the healthcare they need.”
Since Dobbs, an increasing number of people in states with bans are ordering abortion pills online and using them on their own. Research by If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice has uncovered 18 arrests of people who ended their own pregnancies and those who have supported them.
In August 2022, Nebraska prosecutors brought felony charges against a 41-year-old mother and her 17-year-old daughter for illegally performing an abortion after the mother bought abortion pills to cause a miscarriage and her daughter used them to end her pregnancy. Nebraska law enforcement officials subpoenaed the mother’s and daughter’s Facebook messages to each other, which discussed abortion pills.
“Freedom and autonomy are American values, and every person deserves the right to decide what they need to live and thrive. As we’re experiencing rampant attacks on reproductive and gender-affirming health care in statehouses and courthouses, defending our bodily autonomy means defending our right to live freely,” said Olivia Hunt, policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Healthcare is a fundamental right, and it is critical that Congress defend it fiercely.”
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