The best part about 2020 may well be that it’s over. But let’s appreciate what we endured, and honor the memory and the legacy of the people who didn’t make it through.
2020: COVID-19. Trump. Police Brutality.
This year, amid the global pandemic, people around the world watched Trump try to dismantle democracy. And they saw police murder unarmed Black people.
Leaders, activists, and voters stood up to officials who threatened our safety, health, and rights. People who believe in freedom, justice, and equality — many from the very communities that authorities targeted for violence and ignored for COVID-19 relief — took personal risks to move our country forward. That leaves us in a state of deep gratitude, mixed with the knowledge of the year’s crushing losses — notably those who died from COVID-19; Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg; civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis; and people who died at the hands of police, like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Jonathan Price, and Casey Goodson Jr.
In this dark year, here are eight things we can appreciate, and one big way we can make 2021 better.
The #1 Win: If You’re Reading This, You Made It Through
This year shook everyone. In addition to the 1.8 million people worldwide who died from COVID-19, many millions more are grieving those deaths. So, take a moment to think of all the ways you took care of yourself and your loved ones. Recall what nourished your spirit, and the comfort you gave to others. Even the little things are a big deal.
Now, thank yourself for getting out of bed when you didn’t want to, staying home and safe when you didn’t want to, jumping over hurdles, and juggling unexpected responsibilities. Thank yourself for not giving up.
The People’s Victory: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Are Going to the White House
In an incredible victory for the country, including 16 million Planned Parenthood supporters, and everyone who believes in sexual and reproductive health for all, President- elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris won the 2020 election.
You showed up. You voted in record numbers. You voted for reproductive freedom, science, racial equity and justice, immigrant rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. And you brought Biden and Harris to victory!
Biden and Harris won by more than 7 million votes — receiving more votes than any presidential ticket in history — because Americans demanded a more fair and just society with access to sexual and reproductive health care.
As the first Black woman and first South Asian woman to become vice president-elect, Harris’s representation means so much for our country and our next generation of leaders. Meanwhile, President-elect Biden has named reproductive health champions to posts within the United Nations, the federal COVID-19 response team, and the Department of Health and Human Services. These nominations represent an opportunity to restore reproductive health, including abortion rights.
With new leaders and new vision, now we get to reimagine what it means to take full control of our bodies and our lives.
Your Votes Created Down-Ballot Victories
The 2020 election results demonstrate the unstoppable grassroots momentum to protect reproductive freedom:
The U.S. House retained its majority of representatives who support sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Many senators who support reproductive rights retained their seats, including Sens. Mark Warner (VA); Jeanne Shaheen (NH); Cory Booker (NJ); and Gary Peters (MI), who was re-elected after becoming the first sitting senator to share a personal family experience with abortion.
In major battleground states, reproductive health champions like John Hickenlooper (CO) and Mark Kelly (AZ) won U.S. Senate seats.
Seven former Planned Parenthood staff and self-identified patients will be heading to Congress or run-off elections in January.
In addition to electing phenomenal candidates, voters supported reproductive health in ballot propositions:
Coloradans defeated a dangerous and arbitrary 22-week abortion ban.
Voters in Washington state passed a first-of-its-kind measure ensuring that all public schools will teach sex education from grades K–12.
Defending Immigrants’ Rights
DACA Was Reinstated
Since 2012, DACA has given protection against deportation and work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and met certain requirements. DACA helped bring these young people out of the shadows to start school, jobs, and families. But the Trump administration repeatedly tried to end DACA as part of its larger crackdown on immigration. Now, hundreds of thousands of young people can stop living under constant threat of losing their deportation protections.
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Stopped Blocking Detainees’ Abortion Access
After three years of fighting in the courts, the Trump administration changed an abhorrent policy that violated the human and reproductive rights of young, detained immigrants. The ORR must now allow pregnant teenagers in its custody to obtain safe, legal abortions if that is their decision.
Though the DACA reinstatement and reversal of ORR’s abortion policy are incredible, hard-fought wins, much more is needed to undo the devastation that the Trump administration placed on immigrant communities. Planned Parenthood Action Fund is here — no matter what — to advocate for just immigration policies and for all Planned Parenthood patients.
The Supreme Court Protected Access to Abortion — For Now
When the Supreme Court considered a Louisiana law that would restrict abortion access, 100,000-plus petition signers voiced their support for abortion rights. And on June 29, in the case June Medical Services v. Russo, the Supreme Court struck down an admitting privileges requirement that would have forced all but one of Louisiana’s abortion providers to close.
This decision follows the court’s precedent from four years prior in a case from Texas. In both of these cases, the restrictions would have made abortion virtually inaccessible across wide swaths of both states.
While this year’s ruling was a relief to patients in Louisiana and across the country, there are at least 18 abortion-related cases just one step away from the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood Action Fund will continue to fight against medically unnecessary laws that place an undue burden on a person’s right to safe, legal abortion.
Abortion Access Protected and Expanded in Several States
Despite a global pandemic, some state politicians spent precious time and energy enacting abortion restrictions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, these politicians instituted 24 abortion restrictions in 2020. However, elected leaders in other states recognized the need to enact 16 provisions that protect and expand access to abortion — as well as 74 provisions that expand access to other types of reproductive health care and education.
Virginia and Washington, D.C., enacted sweeping laws to protect and expand abortion access:
In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA) into law, which removed harmful and medically unnecessary barriers that often stand in the way of patients in need of abortion. The RHPA ended mandatory ultrasounds, biased counseling, and 24-hour waiting periods for patients seeking abortion, as well as onerous building codes for abortion providers. It also allowed trained nurse practitioners to provide abortions.
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser enacted the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act. The law protects the right to abortion and bars government interference — including prosecution for self-induced abortion.
This year, other harmful measures that would have severely restricted access to abortion were blocked by the courts:
Georgia’s dangerous six-week abortion ban, which could have put abortion out of reach for Georgians before many people even knew they were pregnant
Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS), the only licensed abortion provider in Missouri, won a year-long fight to renew its license and can continue providing abortion services.
Planned Parenthood Expanded Access to Care Online
Even during a pandemic, sexual and reproductive health services can’t wait — they’re time-sensitive and essential. That’s one reason Planned Parenthood health centers expanded telehealth services, making access to care via digital channels broadly available this year.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, online users booked more than 1 million appointments through Planned Parenthood websites and apps.
In April, Planned Parenthood expanded telehealth services across the country to provide health care by phone and video. Through telehealth, patients can access timely care and information from Planned Parenthood’s trusted health care providers with fewer visits or, often, with no in-person visit to a health center at all.
Some Planned Parenthood health centers, depending on state laws, were able to expand medication abortion through telehealth.
Also during the pandemic, telehealth and other Planned Parenthood patients:
Visited Planned Parenthood health centers 1.9 million times
Had over 1.9 million birth control appointments and 1.9 million STD tests
Received 264,000+ emergency contraception prescriptions; 66,000+ breast exams; and 70,000+ Pap tests
This year, Planned Parenthood’s Chat/Text programs expanded.
The Chat/Text program celebrated its 10-year anniversary and 1.5 millionth conversation. Young people who use Planned Parenthood’s Chat/Text program receive real-time, accurate information about their sexual health with trained health educators via text, desktop chat, or mobile chat.
Planned Parenthood made the Chat/Text resource available in Spanish via Chatea/Textea. The new bilingual sexual health resource connects young Latino people to health educators who answer their questions in Spanish or Spanglish.
Holding the Line on Health Care
Sometimes a win is knowing that things could have been worse. Despite the Trump administration’s dogged efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and shut down Planned Parenthood, both are still standing strong. This year, the ACA is 10 years old and Planned Parenthood is 104 years old.
Defenders of health and rights won several rulings in federal courts that blocked cruel and destructive policies from the Trump administration.
Federal courts blocked:
- The Trump administration’s attempt to discourage insurance companies from covering abortion.
The rule forced insurance companies that sell plans in the ACA individual marketplaces to send two separate bills to customers — one for the coverage of abortion, and another for coverage of other health care. But consumers are free from this burdensome policy thanks in part to a case brought by Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
- The administration’s discriminatory "refusal of care" policy, which could have let health care workers put their personal beliefs ahead of people’s health.
The rule aimed to give hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers a license to discriminate against patients. It would have particularly hurt LGBTQ+ people and people seeking safe, legal abortion.
Requiring patients seeking medication abortion during the pandemic to go through the medically unnecessary process of in-person medicine pick up.
Given the risks of COVID-19, a federal court ruled that patients can — at least for now — receive the abortion pill through mail as allowed by state law for other equally safe medications.
Thank You for Fighting With Us
The challenges in 2020 were relentless. But together, we fought every attack, pressured lawmakers to do better, and demanded our voices be heard.
For this, we thank you.
THANK YOU for the valiant balancing act of raising the next generation while fighting for this one. Thank you for taking care of your communities in times of crisis. Because of you, our movement is stronger than ever.
Join Us in the Fight for 2021
As we look to the new year, we get to work toward building a world in which everyone — no matter who they are or where they live — can live the life they want.
You elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with a mandate to protect and expand health care access. Join us in holding them accountable for their campaign promises.
Sign on to our letter to the Biden-Harris team to prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights!