State lawmakers across the country have begun engaging in shenanigans around reproductive and sexual health yet again.
Yes, the pronouncements from the White House since Jan. 20 have proven impossible to ignore. Yes, the responses — in the form of sometimes spontaneous marches and rallies across the country — have been just as impossible to miss.
Amid the din from Washington, though, state lawmakers have convened in capitals across the country to set budgets, make policy … and engage in the shenanigans around reproductive and sexual health that seem to erupt in state legislatures every year.
For the next few weeks, as general assemblies and state elected officials sit in session to do their business, we’ll help people keep a close eye on action in the state capitals. If lawmakers move to “defund” Planned Parenthood, we’ll tell you about it. When self-appointed gynoticians substitute their judgment for that of medical professionals, we’ll tell you about it. And when people stand up for the care provided by Planned Parenthood and say #WeWontGoBack, we’ll tell you about that, too.
Why? Because the shenanigans in states, much like the looming debate over the federal Supreme Court, reflect a systematic effort to block access to reproductive health care. Those efforts, if allowed to succeed, would have real and disastrous consequences for all people — and an often disproportionate impact on communities of color, which already face systemic barriers in accessing quality health care.
So let’s get to it.
Arkansas: Little Rock Rallies for Reproductive Justice
Although lawmakers in the Natural State wasted no time in mounting attacks on reproductive health this year — pushing a ban on an abortion method common in the second trimester of pregnancy to the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed it into law within hours of the bill’s passage — hundreds of activists nevertheless descended on the state capitol on Jan. 28 for a Rally for Reproductive Justice.
Over 600 people, according to rally organizers, gathered on the capitol steps to reject efforts to limit access to reproductive health.
Arkansans took to Twitter as well to protest the governor’s quick signature — using that hashtag #AsaMayI to mock the notion of having the governor intervene in people’s personal medical decisions.
Iowa: After Rushed ‘Defunding’ Vote, a People’s Hearing
A state senate subcommittee hearing on a proposal to “defund” Planned Parenthood in Iowa dissolved after 25 minutes when — faced with a crowd of activists that spilled out from the hearing room into the hallway — lawmakers held a rushed vote and moved the measure to the full Senate rather than continuing to hear public testimony. What unfolded next, however, was an impromptu hearing, with the crowd staying to listen as Iowans testified to why they need the care that Planned Parenthood provides.
Activists outside the hearing room inside the Iowa State Capitol as senators considered a ‘defunding’ bill. Photo credit: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
Participants even took disseminating the events at the people’s hearing into their own hands, streaming it while it happened through Facebook Live.
Utah: Thousands March on State Capitol
On Jan. 23 as state lawmakers convened for the first day of their annual session, thousands of activists descended upon the capitol to make their voices heard. The Women’s March in Salt Lake City, scheduled to happen two days after its sister marches to coincide with lawmakers’ first day at their desks, drew 6,000 people to the state Capitol according to police estimates — with the crowd filling the building’s rotunda over its capacity.
A view of the filled-to-capacity Utah State Capitol rotunda during the Jan. 23 Women’s March. Photo Credit: KUTV REPORTER CHRIS JONES/TWITTER
March organizers spoke up about the legislature’s predominantly male membership, with a spokesperson telling the Salt Lake Tribune that women “will come together even if those men don’t want us to.” Noor ul-Hassan, the spokesperson for Utah Women Unite, went on to tell marchers that “when you think we don't have a voice, remember that we raised our voices here.”
Learn more about the reproductive and sexual health policy fights happening in the states by visiting Planned Parenthood Action’s State Attacks page.