What follows is an overview of some of the reproductive rights legislative issues and measures that are on the horizon.
Support Prevention First
Introduced on January 4, 2007, by Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada), the Prevention First Act (S.21) is a broad package of measures aimed at improving women’s health, reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy and reducing the need for abortions. We expect the introduction of a similar bill in the House of Representatives in the very near future.
Prevention First would:
(1) increase funding for the National Family Planning Program (“Title X”);
(2) expand Medicaid family planning services for low-income women;
(3) end insurance discrimination against women by requiring private health plans to cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related medical services to the same extent that they cover prescription drugs and other outpatient medical services;
(4) improve awareness about emergency contraception;
(5) require hospitals receiving federal funds to offer emergency contraception to women who survive sexual assault;
(6) provide funding for grants to public and private entities to establish or expand teen pregnancy prevention programs and for comprehensive sexuality education;
(7) require federally funded programs that teach about sexual health and behavior or that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage to provide medically accurate information.
Contact your Senators and ask them to support women’s reproductive health by becoming a co-sponsor of this bill.
Meet the Reproductive Health Care Needs of Women in the Military
Current law prohibits women from obtaining abortion care at U.S. military hospitals, even if they pay for this care with their own private funds. For military women and dependents stationed overseas, this restriction poses grave health risks as local facilities are often inadequate or entirely unavailable. At a time when we are expecting so much from U.S. Servicewomen and military families, it is particularly critical that the federal government take positive steps to meet their reproductive health care needs.
We are hopeful that this Congress will reverse the abortion ban for women in the military in the coming months.
Ensure Abortion Care for Low-Income Women
For 30 years, Congress has banned public funding of virtually all abortions for poor women. The prohibition, named after Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois, an anti-choice legislator, who retired from Congress last year, excludes abortion from the list of comprehensive health services provided to low-income women on Medicaid. Under Hyde, a poor woman can rely on Medicaid to absorb health care costs associated with carrying a pregnancy to term; however, if she decides instead to end a pregnancy, with a few rare exceptions, coverage is denied.
To mark the 30th anniversary of this law, the reproductive rights community is raising awareness about the impact of the prohibition and asking federal and state lawmakers to repeal the public funding ban. Although it is unlikely that the amendment will be repealed this year, this educational effort will help to create the momentum necessary for repeal in the near future.
Contact your members of Congress and ask them to lift the ban on abortion funding for poor women.
Stop Funding for Dangerous Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs
Since 1996, the federal government has spent more than one billion dollars to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The ACLU opposes funding for these programs because they contain medical inaccuracies, violate First Amendment guarantees, stigmatize and exclude gay teens, and censor information that could benefit young people.
Over the next several months, the pro-choice coalition will work with members of Congress to increase oversight of abstinence-only-until-marriage funding, require abstinence-only programs to provide medically accurate and complete information, and explore opportunities to fund better and more comprehensive programs that give teens the information they need to lead healthy lives.
Beware of Possible Anti-Choice Measures
Although pro-choice leaders can now more readily control which legislation moves in Congress, in some instances, particularly in the Senate, individual members can still force lawmakers to consider dangerous measures that will curtail reproductive freedom.
We will remain vigilant and prepared to defeat extreme measures that remain anti-choice priorities. These include the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, a dangerous bill that would restrict a teenager’s ability to obtain an abortion outside of her home state with or without her parents’ knowledge, and the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which mandates the provision of misleading information to women.