This year, the progressive movement took a big hit — not just from the election, but also from attacks on reproductive rights, voting rights, and more. That means we’re spending the last few days of 2016 reflecting on what we’ve learned, and gearing up for the fight ahead in 2017.
More than anything, 2016 showed us that our movement is energized and resilient. We saw a huge swelling of support for reproductive freedom. Champions for our values rose up time and again. And we did win some major victories.
While we prepare for what’s to come, it’s important that we take a victory lap to celebrate those triumphs. So, as we count down to midnight December 31st, here are six things from 2016 that I’ll be toasting. I hope you’ll raise a glass with me!
1. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
In an enormous victory for women, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to protect access to safe, legal abortion in the landmark Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case.
The Court struck down two unconstitutional Texas restrictions that threatened to close a significant number of abortion providers in the state. But the wins didn’t stop there: Since the ruling, abortion restrictions in six states have been struck down or put on hold. And we’re not done yet! We’ll keep working to take down unconstitutional restrictions, turning this major victory into more access for women all across the country.
2. Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Leaders Join In Solidarity
In a first-of-its-kind meeting and joint statement, 90 organizations led by In Our Own Voice and Planned Parenthood declared our unity, collective power, and commitment to advancing sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice around the world.
Together, we declared that every person has the basic human right to quality health care, and no community should be left behind. Together, we declared that we won’t allow roll-backs on hard-won rights. We will hold firm to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity, compassion, and respect, and can achieve full reproductive freedom. In the months and years ahead, we’ll need to stand together more than ever to protect the people we serve.
3. Planned Parenthood’s Centennial
A century ago, Planned Parenthood was founded on the revolutionary idea that everyone should have the information and care they need to live healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits. Since then, Planned Parenthood has transformed reproductive health around the world and empowered millions of people to make informed health decisions. And 100 years in, we’re just getting started.
4. Women Winning Down-Ballot
So maybe the highest, hardest glass ceiling is still waiting to be broken. But this election, several female candidates made history by winning in down-ballot races.
The U.S. Senate welcomed four female reproductive rights champions, including New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan. Those reproductive health champions also quadrupled the number of women of color in Congress — it may have only gone from 1 to 4, but it’s still something to celebrate: Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina to serve in the Senate; Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth is the first member of Congress born in Thailand; and Kamala Harris, whose mother immigrated from India and whose father grew up in Jamaica, is California’s first senator of Indian descent and the country's second Black female senator. Meanwhile, Ilhan Omar was elected to the Minnesota House, becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. So excited to see these amazing women shake things up!
5. Millions of Americans Getting Health Care Coverage
The number of people who gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit 20 million early this year.
The uninsured rate in the U.S. is now at the lowest level on record — down to just 9%. And the folks who saw some of the biggest changes since the ACA passed? Women. Before the ACA, millions of women were denied coverage because of so-called “pre-existing conditions” like breast cancer or pregnancy, and some had to pay more for insurance just because they were women. Now, the ACA benefit ensures that women get the coverage they need — including more than 55 million women who have access to birth control without a copay. It’s a game-changer!
6. Surge of Support for Planned Parenthood
This year, the Planned Parenthood family grew to 9.5 million supporters supporters.
That’s 9.5 million people who volunteer, donate, agitate, and stand up with Planned Parenthood in person and online. I met so many of these supporters this year while traveling the country volunteering to help elect reproductive health champions. And here’s what I noticed: Four years ago and eight years ago, women at canvass kick-offs and rallies would pull me aside and whisper their thanks for the work that Planned Parenthood does — because they were able to access safe and legal abortion, or birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers.
In 2016, no one was whispering. Across the country, they told their stories loud and proud. These folks are fired up to do whatever it takes to protect access to birth control, abortion, and care at Planned Parenthood health centers.
This coming year will be the fight of our lives. But it’s wins like these that keep us going. Here’s to the hard-won accomplishments of 2016!