States in 2017 have seen a flurry of legislative activity around reproductive health — yet a few public officials stand out. Some have made vocal defenses of their constituents’ reproductive rights, while others have outdone themselves to legislate private medical decisions.
We want to introduce a few of these officials and help people get to know who to thank and who to … well, glare at:
Yes, gynoticians: We are judging you.
Photo source: ABC via Giphy
So here we go.
RAH: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York
As the recent Supreme Court nomination of a judge who has yet to commit to upholding Roe v. Wade reminds us, reproductive health policy in the states matters as much as what happens in Washington. Without the federal constitutional protections guaranteed by precedents such as Roe and Griswold v. Connecticut, residents and patients across the country could find themselves facing — in the course of making decisions about their personal health and well-being — state laws which, in too many cases, are relics of an ugly past.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to address that fact this week by proposing to enshrine the protections in Roe in the state’s constitution. At a reproductive-health day of action attended by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Cuomo announced plans to ask lawmakers to codify Roe with a constitutional amendment, protecting access to abortion in New York State.
The amendment would need to go to voters before becoming effective. The proposal could appear on a ballot as soon as 2019.
NAH: Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas
The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, joined the ranks of America’s gynoticians in January when he signed a law prohibiting a common method of abortion in the second trimester. Despite similar method bans having been stopped from going into effect after court challenges in four states, Hutchinson appeared before a crowd of anti-abortion demonstrators at the state capitol to announce his intention to sign the bill.
Hutchinson — an attorney by training — apparently told a reporter, when asked about the bill, that an “evolving medical determination” about the viability of a fetus had guided him to sign the law.
We’re confused too, friend. We are too.
Photo source: Giphy
RAH: Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia
Under its previous governor, Bob McDonnell, politicians in Virginia led the charge for onerous, medically unnecessary regulations designed to close health centers — colloquially called ‘TRAP’ laws — that eventually cropped up in states across the country. McAuliffe, after succeeding McDonnell, moved to review Virginia’s TRAP regulations, which threatened to shut most Virginia health clinics where abortions were performed.
On Jan. 23, McAuliffe signed updated regulations that lifted those harsh, medically unnecessary requirements, protecting access to safe and legal abortion in Virginia:
In a tweet after the reception, McAuliffe said thank you “to the hard work of [Attorney General Mark Herring, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia] & all advocates that ensured not one clinic closed.”
Raise the roof for Gov. McAuliffe, y’all.
Photo source: Netflix via Giphy
NAH: John Kasich, Governor of Ohio
Ohio’s governor reads as a mild-mannered moderate to some, but has the record of an anti-reproductive health zealot. In December 2016, Governor Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law — ignoring protests that spread from the state capitol and governor’s mansion throughout the state.
Kasich signed the ban while vetoing a six-week ban also approved by legislators — perhaps on the hope that signing only one draconian law interfering with women’s medical decisions would look reasonable.
Listen to Helen, Governor.
Photo source: Giphy
Ohio lawmakers, as of February 2017, were considering the adoption of needless and costly requirements for the disposition of fetal remains — which, if signed by the governor, would become the 19th anti-abortion proposal made law by Kasich.
NAH: Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky
Across the Ohio River, Kentucky’s governor tried to one-up his neighboring state’s anti-abortion antics with legislation that waded deep into sensitive, personal medical decisions. Kentucky lawmakers in January convened an unusual Saturday session and invoked “emergency” provisions to send a 20-week ban to Governor Bevin — which, upon his signature, took immediate effect.
As approved, the 20-week ban made no exceptions for rape, incest, or the mental health of the mother.
Photo source: ABC via Giphy
Compounding the insult, legislators sent Bevin a companion bill that forces patients seeking abortions to submit to an ultrasound — and forces health-care providers to verbally describe those ultrasound images to patients. Bevin signed that “emergency” legislation as well, drawing a swift lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
NAH: Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas
The Texas governor has never been a friend of women’s health, or seemingly all that bothered by the effects of his policies on the health of Texas women and families— so when he delivered his state of the state address on Jan. 31, these words may have inspired some double takes:
I welcome any legislation that protects unborn children and promotes a culture of life in Texas.
Texas, with the enthusiastic support of then-attorney general Greg Abbott, moved in 2011 to “defund” Planned Parenthood and pass draconian clinic-closing TRAP laws. Coinciding with the cuts, the maternal mortality rate in the state was in the process of doubling between 2000 and 2014 — reaching levels that, if Texas were a country, would give Texas the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world.
Rather than address that crisis, Abbott spent a portion of his speech pushing a government mandate that would force every woman to have a fetus buried or cremated following a safe, legal abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. This is the very definition of politicians interfering in a woman’s health care and the courts have already blocked this policy in Texas.
RAH: Edith Ajello, Rhode Island state representative
On Feb. 1, Rhode Island lawmakers reintroduced legislation to guarantee access to abortion services. During a rally for reproductive rights after the bill was introduced, Rep. Edith Ajello — the lead sponsor of the proposed law — shared a personal story with the crowd. According to the McClatchy news service:
Rhode Island state Rep. Edith Ajello (at lower left) addressing a rally at the state capitol on Feb. 1. Photo source: video capture from the Providence Journal.
Providence Democratic Rep. Edith Ajello said she was a 21-year-old Bucknell College student in 1965 when she found a doctor in Pennsylvania's nearby coal country who agreed to perform an illegal abortion on her.
Ajello, who was first elected in 1992 and has repeatedly introduced abortion rights bills backed by Planned Parenthood that have never gotten a vote, said she felt compelled to tell her story amid fears about the policies and judicial appointments of Republican President Donald Trump.
Thank you for your confidence and courage, Rep. Ajello.
NAH: Ron Bacon, Indiana state representative
Anti-abortion extremist Mike Pence may have left the Indiana governor’s mansion, but state-house shenanigans continue in his absence. Representative Ron Bacon introduced a bill in the Indiana legislature on Jan. 5 that would force abortion providers to recite to patients the statement that “a chemical abortion may be possibly arrested or reversed” — despite the fact that no language in the American College of Gynecologists’ guidelines supports such a statement.
Senator Gillibrand speaks for us.
Photo source: Giphy
In contrast to the alternative facts behind Bacon’s legislation, actual science suggests that the so-called “reversal” technique could actually be unsafe.
For more information on how to advocate for reproductive and sexual health care in your community, visit our Get Involved Locally page.
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Tags: Asa Hutchinson, Rhode Island, Edith Ajello, Gynotician, New York, Andrew Cuomo, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, State Fights, Planned Parenthood, Greg Abbott, Ron Bacon, Abortion, Kentucky, John Kasich, Arkansas, Matt Bevin, Ohio, 20 week ban, roe v wade, Terry McCauliffe