Abortion restrictions and bans seem to be dominating headlines on a daily basis. As attacks on reproductive rights continue to rise and increase in severity, it can be easy to overlook the significant achievements and strides being made to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare in several states around the country. These legislative victories from the past month are worth celebrating as they provide inspiration and practical strategies to guide our work in the coming weeks, months, and years.
This month the state of Illinois passed the Reproductive Health Act, a comprehensive bill that protects abortion in a number of ways. First, it requires all insurance plans, public and private, to provide coverage for abortion care. Second, it removes targeted restrictions for abortion providers and expands the pool of providers to include nurses and physician assistants. Third, it repeals old state laws that criminalized abortion. Fourth, it allows for second trimester abortion without requiring a second physician’s opinion for medically-necessary procedures.
Nevada’s governor signed into law legislation that ends the practice of compelling proivders to share the “emotional implications” of getting an abortion witht their patients. Under this new law providers are no longer required to ask about a patient’s marital status or age prior to their care. Similar to the Illinois legislation, it also removes criminal penalties for those who provide abortion medication without the advice of a doctor. Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement, “Nevada has a long history of trusting the women of our state to make their own reproductive health care decisions and protecting the right to reproductive freedom.”
In an effort to expand abortion access to those living in rural areas, Maine passed legislation that would allow medical professionals who are not physicians, inlcuding nurses and physician assistants, to provide abortion care in the state. Governor Janet Mills said, “By signing this bill into law, Maine is defending the rights of women and taking a step towards equalizing access to care as other states are seeking to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate these services.”
While politicians in our state scale up their fight against reproductive rights, there are fearless and faithful activists in our state working tirelessly to protect them, like Laurie Bertram Roberts, Shannon Brewer, and Derenda Hancock, whose work to ensure abortion access for Mississippians was profiled in the New York Times magazine, and Judge Carlton Reeves, who blocked the 6-week abortion ban proposed by the state legislature, stating in his ruling that the ban “prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”
Lastly, in these difficult times, many faith leaders, some for the first time, are raising their voices in support of reproductive dignity and decrying the injustice of the abortion bans spreading like wildfire in the South and Midwest. Rev. Emily Heath, a pastor in the United Church of Christ, preached for the first time about abortion. They ended their sermon with this call to action: “This is our chance, as Christians, to change the narrative. Moderate and progressive Christians are rarely the ones chosen to be talking heads on the evening news when it comes to matters of faith. That’s because we’ve been too quiet. But that can change. That must change. Our moral voice, our voice of Christ’s love, is needed more than ever.”