The Women’s Health Protection Act is a crucial step toward protecting access for safe, legal, essential reproductive health care and the constitutional rights of every woman in the U.S.—no matter where she lives. This federal legislation would invalidate laws that single out abortion providers with medically unnecessary requirements and restrictions, do not promote women’s health or safety, and limit access to abortion services. This report presents a compelling argument for WHPA and includes research about the impact of abortion restrictions along with the stories of those affected.
No matter their personal beliefs, most Americans believe abortion should be legal and would support Congress passing a new federal law to protect women’s access to care, according to a poll released by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The survey found that 6 in 10 adults (61 percent) would support a federal law like the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would safeguard abortion care and prevent restrictions that put access increasingly out of reach.
The survey of 1,877 voting-age adults in the United States sought to gauge attitudes towards women’s health as Congress debates stripping away reproductive care and state legislatures continue to pass hundreds of restrictions limiting access to services. An overwhelming 87 percent of those surveyed want Congress to share their values on women’s health issues. The survey also finds that 8 in 10 adults (81 percent) want their representatives to be more vocal in support of these issues.
On April 20, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health–VA Latina Advocacy Network hosted an Act for Women Town Hall with Rep. Don Beyer (VA-8). Called the State of Reproductive Health Talk Back, the event featured a community panel addressing the barriers Virginia women face in obtaining abortion care.
Panelists included Tarina Keene of NARAL–VA, Mara Kaiser of Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington, D.C., Kat Olivera from Falls Church Healthcare Center, plus representatives from NLIRH. Staffers from Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Gerry Connolly, and Sen. Mark Warner also attended. Dialogue focused on the impact of abortion restrictions in Virginia and the decline of clinics and access. It was an opportunity for the community’s concerns to be heard and to affirm the need for the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the most significant reproductive rights case in decades—Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal was joined by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, and U.S. Representatives Judy Chu, Marcia Fudge, and Lois Frankel in introducing the Women’s Health Protection Act on March 2.
2,550 Coloradans join tele-town hall to discuss reproductive rights
On August 23, 2016, Act for Women state partners NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) held a tele-town hall to discuss the state of reproductive rights at the federal and state levels. Speakers included the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Chair Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman’s Health, and staff from the host organizations and the Center for Reproductive Rights. More than 2,550 Coloradans joined the call to discuss the Whole Woman’s Health case, the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the EACH Woman Act.
On May 11 and 12, 139 advocates from around the country came together in Washington, D.C., to promote the Women’s Health Protection Act. Below, three of our attendees share their stories: a faith leader from Tennessee, an activist from Texas, and a medical student from Massachusetts.
Name: Rev. Faye London
Home State: Tennessee
I was ambivalent about wearing my stole as we approached the capitol. I wanted my group to be taken seriously as we entered offices to talk about the Women’s Health Protection Act. After some wrestling and at the urging of others in my group, I donned my symbol of religious leadership and marched into our first meeting uncertain what level of authority or expertise might be expected as a result of the bright red, highly visible “accessory.” As our group of advocates opened up to legislators about the needs of women and the imperative that we do what we can to stop the attacks on abortion access, the authority that I had assigned to the piece of fabric around my neck revealed itself as present in the truth and power of our little group as a unit. No, we were not all religious people, nor were we operating under any particular religious authority. We were, however, all there in one spirit. In the end, my little stole added its voice to the beautiful symphony to remind legislators that women of faith need unimpeded access to full spectrum reproductive health care including abortion just like all other women and that we’re ready to stand up and demand it. The WHPA advocacy day experience served as a reminder that as a faith leader, it is my job to lift my voice for justice.
Name: Lidiana Ramirez
Organization: Texas Latina Advocacy Network of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Home State: Texas
Traveling to D.C. to meet with my congressman was a powerful experience. For many Latin@s in the Rio Grande Valley, our voices are often forgotten or fall on deaf ears, especially when it comes to issues that affect our reproductive health and decisions. Organizing in our city focuses on building power and claiming our seat at the table, but the Act for Women Advocacy Day allowed us to exercise that power in a new way that resulted in real impact: Representatives Castro and Vela became cosponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act. We look forward to continued efforts in support of both the Women’s Health Protection Act and the EACH Women Act, which would help thousands of Latin@s in Texas and across the country.
Name: Liza Brecher
Organization: Medical Students for Choice
Home State: Massachusetts
When I decided to go to medical school I never imagined that I would have to fight to ensure that I could legally practice medicine how I want to. But I will do so to ensure that women have access to full healthcare. The passion that drives Medical Students for Choice to spend our free time learning the abortion and contraception content that often gets left out of our medical curriculum is the same kind of energy that legislators need to hear from the medical community. Before participating in the advocacy day, I didn’t understand just how much sway I have as a future health care professional. In school and clinic we often see our white coats as something that can make patients anxious or fearful, but on the Hill, my white coat communicated authority that allowed me to more effectively promote the Women’s Health Protection Act. As a student at Tufts University I have more time and freedom to pursue abortion-related activism, and I am excited to continue to do so with Medical Students for Choice.
On May 11 and 12, almost 150 advocates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Act for Women Advocacy Day in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act. Thanks to all who took time out of their busy schedules to speak out for women’s access to safe, legal abortion care, both in person and on social media.
The following originally appeared on the Center for Reproductive Rights website.
“There are women languishing around the country who cannot speak for themselves. Women who’ve had services closed in their face. Poor women. College women. Hispanic women,” Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee told an energized and diverse crowd of reproductive health advocates who gathered on Capitol Hill last week. “How dare someone say to these women, whose rights should be equal to everyone, ‘You cannot have access to health services.’”
Approximately 140 state and federal advocates, faith leaders, health practitioners, and clinic workers congregated in Washington, DC, on May 11 and 12 to advocate for the Women’s Health Protection Act. They’re all part of the Act for Women campaign, which provides unified support for this federal legislation that would prohibit states from imposing restrictions that limit women’s access to safe and legal abortion services.
On November 13, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a case challenging two onerous abortion restrictions. The case will determine whether Texas can shut down nearly all abortion care providers in the state, placing countless women at risk of serious harm. At issue in the lawsuit are the kind of laws that would be prohibited if the Women’s Health Protection Act is enacted.
For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health and family. Laws like the one in Texas that is under review have been developed by politicians to sneak around the Constitution and end abortion by preventing women from accessing legal health services.
While it is essential that the Supreme Court protect our rights in this case, it is also the responsibility of Congress to enact policy that advances reproductive health and upholds these constitutional values.
The case will be heard this spring, with a decision expected in June 2016. This is a pivotal moment in our movement, and you can use the
case as a conversation starter about the need for federal policies that improve access to reproductive health care.
Learn more about the case at protectabortionaccess.org.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The war on women is over, and women lost. In the past five years, states have enacted over 230 new abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood is under constant attack and losing ground quickly. The promise of Roe v. Wade is lost, its precedents irreparably undermined. Basically, it’s over.
Yes, it’s a familiar narrative. Safe, legal, accessible abortion is a thing of the past, and we’ll soon be forced to admit our defeat. As someone who works on reproductive rights policy, I hear this frustration frequently, from friends and acquaintances. Why is the pro-choice movement always on the defensive? Why do our allies use language that stigmatizes women who choose abortion? Why are we allowing our freedoms to be legislated away? Why aren’t we more proactive?
The answer is simple: We are fighting back.
The Act for Women campaign is partnering with key state organizations to build out the ground game for the Women’s Health Protection Act. These advocates will advance the Act through community education, engagement with members of Congress, state and local policy initiatives, grassroots mobilization, and more.
In Colorado, a coalition of three organizations—Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation, and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains—will educate their constituencies about the need for the Act. The coalition will mobilize supporters to call on local, state, and federal lawmakers to take action for reproductive health, rights, and justice.
Michigan and Ohio are neighboring states at the front lines of some of the worst pending abortion restrictions in the country. As a result, some women are forced to leave their home state to seek abortion care elsewhere. A new organization known as Reclaim, along with NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation, will ensure the story of the impact of abortion restrictions on Ohioans and Michiganders informs the Act for Women and reaches the members of Congress who need to hear it.
In Tennessee, SisterReach will approach the Act for Women campaign from a reproductive justice perspective, highlighting how the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act would positively affect low-income and rural women, and women and girls of color.
In Virginia, members of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health will activate their constituency in support of this important bill.