In 2022, lawmakers in states hostile to reproductive rights intensified their efforts to attack legal protections for abortion. In contrast, lawmakers in states supportive of reproductive rights – like California – took steps to protect abortion rights and approve access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Further details on state policy landscapes across the nation can be found here. Below are a few recent key moments – both celebratory and related to the ongoing fight for reproductive justice for all:
President Biden Signs Respect for Marriage Act (RMA)
On December 13, President Biden signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act. This law guarantees federal marriage rights, benefits and obligations of marriages in the federal code; officially strikes the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act from U.S. law; and affirms that public acts, records and proceedings should be recognized by all states.
This serves as a backstop to critical rights if the Supreme Court was to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, which established a fundamental right to marry.
Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest celebrates this step toward equity for all.
Litigation in Texas
Federal Judge Threatens Birth Control Access for Young People
On December 20, a federal judge in Texas ruled that Texans under the age of 18 are now legally required to seek approval from their parent or guardian in order to obtain birth control from federally funded clinics. The case, Deanda v. Becerra, is part of an ongoing and coordinated effort waged by opponents of sexual and reproductive health care to use the judicial system to restrict birth control and other essential health care, and sets a dangerous precedent in restricting access to essential sexual and reproductive health care.
Restrictions on access to birth control and other basic sexual and reproductive health care disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color – communities which already face barriers to health care due to systemic racism and discrimination. Rural communities and young people also face disproportionate barriers to sexual and reproductive health care access. Leading medical organizations have made it clear that young people need access to confidential health care services – particularly around sexual and reproductive health.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Texas and beyond. We will continue to fight for everyone’s ability to make decisions for themselves, and especially the health and lives of young people, who may be stripped of their ability to access the health care they need to build healthy lives.
FDA Allows People to Fill Prescriptions for Medication Abortion Pill at Pharmacies
Another Texas case seeking to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone is making headlines. If successful, this case would have dangerous implications for access to mifepristone and open the gates for further attacks on sexual and reproductive health care access. The case is expected to be heard by a federal court in Texas in early February.
While this case is ongoing, the FDA has recently taken a very important step in eliminating medically unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion. Under a new regulatory change, retail pharmacies in the U.S. will be allowed to offer abortion pills with a prescription for the first time ever.
After an evidence-based review in 2021, the FDA announced modification to the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone that previously required it to be dispensed only in clinical settings. The changes were finalized, the in-person dispensing requirement was removed, and a new certification requirement for pharmacies dispensing the drug was added. The revised REMS clarify that pharmacies may dispense abortion medication in-person or by mail as long as they become certified and follow FDA-guidelines.
Of the news, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson says: “Today’s news is a step in the right direction for health equity. Being able to access your prescribed medication abortion through the mail or to pick it up in person from a pharmacy like any other prescription is a game changer for people trying to access basic health care. While we’re still fighting against bans and restrictions on medication abortion at the state level, it’s critical that people in states where abortion is legal have access to care. Today’s changes will help millions of people have more access to the care they need, when they need it.”
Mifepristone is safe and effective, and has been used by more than 4 million people since the FDA approved it more than 20 years ago. Leading medical associations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Academy of Family Physicians, have maintained that the FDA’s long-standing restrictions on mifepristone, including the in-person dispensing requirements, provide no safety benefits.
Last month, the state of Texas and an anonymous plaintiff sued the three Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates and Planned Parenthood Federation of America for more than $1.7 billion, alleging that the affiliates defrauded the state's Medicaid system by getting reimbursed for birth control and other basic health care services that the affiliates provided. In response, PPFA and the three Texas affiliates filed for summary judgment in the case (U.S. ex rel Doe v Planned Parenthood Federation of America, et al.). The summary judgment asks the court to enter judgment in favor of PPFA and the Texas affiliates without the need for a jury trial. PPFA and the Texas affiliates have produced hundreds of thousands of documents and dozens of people have given testimony that shows there is no evidence that anyone at Planned Parenthood committed Medicaid fraud. These claims are baseless and just another attempt to try to prevent people from getting the care they need.
It’s clear that these strategic attacks are fueled by an anti-abortion agenda and focused on one thing – denying people the right to access the care they need and make the choices that are best for their health and lives. What we’re seeing today is nothing new. Anti-abortion proponents are continuing to use disinformation and a conservative court system to try to shut Planned Parenthood down and strip Texans, and all people in the U.S., of their access to basic health care.
PPFA, our strong legal teams, and the entire Planned Parenthood family, fueled by our vast network of supporters, will never back down in the face of these threats. We will continue to do everything in our power to stand up against these dangerous attacks and care for our patients with the same high-quality standards, compassion, and strength.
At Planned Parenthood, we believe every person deserves access to the full range of health care they need. We stand staunchly with our colleagues in Texas, and will not back down.
Status of Abortion Bans in the States
As sessions begin this year, we expect that states with hostile legislatures will continue to lean into passing laws that further restrict abortion. Concurrently, some states are positioned to move proactive measures to ensure access to abortion is protected, expanded, and funded. We are seeing states like MN and IL already pushing forward on expanding access, and applaud the work being done to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is expanded regardless of a particular state’s political environment.
Regardless of where your state lands on the access spectrum, we have the opportunity to build our movement and advance our issues through engagement, advocacy and action.
As of January 12, 2023: Eighteen states (18) across the nation have eliminated all or some abortions. These states are as follows: AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, ID, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, WI, WV.
- States where abortion has been banned: AL, AR, ID, KY, LA, MO, MS, OK, SD, TN, TX, WI, WV
- States where abortion has been banned after the earliest stages of pregnancies: GA
- States where abortion has been banned after 15-20 weeks gestation: AZ, FL, NC, UT
We are grateful that abortion in is still safe and legal in California, and we stand strongly alongside our friends in the fight for full reproductive freedom for all.
To learn how you can get involved, visit voteforchoice.org/takeaction.