These are exciting times – with Vice President Kamala Harris in office and a much more pro-reproductive health congress, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i reports optimism for the year to come, even as tough battles loom.
“We have seen some exciting announcements – like executive orders to end the global gag rule, beginning the process to roll back the Title X rule, but this will take some time,” said Votes CEO Jennifer Allen.
"We have also seen moves to roll back Medicaid restrictions, and are looking forward to seeing action on dispensing abortion medication without a visit to a provider.”
All in all, with a more pro-reproductive health federal administration, changes for the better in terms of abortion and reproductive health access may soon be in store.
However, there are also some hurdles and challenges looming ahead in the fight for reproductive health care access.
In Alaska, reproductive rights advocates are closely monitoring a proposed state constitutional amendment that could set up legal precedent making a full abortion ban possible in the state.
Proposed by Senator Shelley Hughes of Palmer, Alaska, Hughes’ proposed amendment states, “to protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion.”
Because legal precedent interprets the right to privacy as protection for reproductive health services, including abortion, the specificity of Hughes’ amendment is intended to provide a gateway for laws to ban abortion.
“We are fighting back,” said Allen. “It’s getting some hearings, but we are hoping [this proposed amendment] won’t make it through.”
In Hawai’i, the priorities for this year’s legislative session primarily focus on funding for sexual and reproductive health care.
“The state has not replaced all funding lost due to the Title X gag rule, and due to the budget crisis in the state, they have entirely defunded the family planning safety net that used to exist,” said Allen.
“We are fighting for funding to be restored.”
The fight for reproductive rights faces a much more hostile environment in Idaho, and attacks on reproductive health care access are not the only threats to public health in the state.
“In Idaho, we’re not only fighting against attempts to defund abortion providers and proposed abortion bans, but we are also fighting against COVID protection attacks,” Allen reported.
Already this year, legislation that would criminalize abortion providers has been proposed, on top of last year’s “trigger bill” that would criminalize abortion and go into effect immediately should Roe V. Wade be overturned, signed into law by Idaho Governor Brad Little.
Reproductive rights are at a critical juncture in Idaho, as is public health – eight different bills have been proposed to limit governmental power to enact COVID-19 restrictions such as mask wearing and restrictions on public gatherings.
Votes reports extreme vigilance considering this situation and is playing a hard defensive strategy.
In Washington, the climate is calmer, with no attacks moving forward so far this year.
Top priorities in Washington include reproductive health funding, abortion coverage in student health plans, Medicaid coverage, addressing implicit bias in medical schools and emergency relief for COVID-19 impacts.
You can find out more, and learn ways to support these critical battles, by visiting the Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i website.