Just weeks into 2018, too many legislators across the country are already pushing their anti-woman, anti-abortion agenda. From Tennessee to Ohio, Idaho to Mississippi, we see state legislators who, mistakenly, think that their role is to limit and restrict the rights and dignity of the people we serve.
In fact, over the past seven years, more than 400 bills have been signed into state law curtailing access to reproductive health care.
But there is more to the story, and the three of us are committed to flipping the script.
This year, we are joining with over 250 state legislators from 42 states in launching the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, a first-of-its-kind network of state legislators committed to advancing reproductive freedom.
For too long, the debate on reproductive justice has been ruled by those seeking to limit freedom, rather than advance it. By joining this coalition of likeminded legislators, we are seeking to shift that frame and instead envision a nation in which each of us can make our own decisions about our reproductive health, pregnancy, and parenting, free from political interference. We view this as intrinsically woven into the broader progressive fabric of gender equity, economic justice, and racial equity.
We realize we must envision that nation in order to get there. We must set bold goals, and join together to accomplish them. That means we must advance policies in each and every state that can help us achieve our vision.
And the momentum has begun.
In Maryland, a new law went into effect this year that allows women and men expanded access to contraception at little or no cost and providing for six months’ worth of birth control at a time. Now we’re working to strengthen and expand this reproductive health care coverage even further.
In Washington State, we believe that access to reproductive health care options is necessary for women to have equal economic opportunities. Last year, we passed legislation to allow 12 months of contraception available at one time. This year, we’re advancing the Reproductive Parity Act, to make sure that health plans that cover maternity care also include coverage for abortion care.
And in Pennsylvania, we’re aiming to make sure that Pennsylvania’s women have access to a full range of preventive and reproductive health services, including well-woman care, contraception, and screenings, as well as appropriate counseling for sexually transmitted infections, breast cancer, domestic violence, and breastfeeding.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Reproductive health and self-determination are essential elements of human freedom and necessary to a life of dignity and opportunity. Control over one’s body is essential to controlling one’s future. Our hope is that by joining our voices and power together through this Council and working toward a common goal that we can achieve real change and advance policies that demonstrate our profound and well-deserved respect for reproductive freedom — and for women.
We stand with and work for all people seeking health, dignity, and freedom, for themselves, their families, and their communities — including undocumented Americans who are too often the targets of xenophobic laws and deserve the same access to reproductive care. We also recognize that not everyone who needs contraception, abortion, and maternity care identifies as a cisgender woman, and that truly comprehensive and culturally appropriate reproductive and sexual health care must meet the needs of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people.
It seems like common sense: When states pass policies that limit access to reproductive health care, women’s health suffers. When states pass laws that are supportive of the full spectrum of women’s reproductive health, women’s health improves. There are also healthier outcomes for children, and our communities are more prosperous so all families can thrive.
As our platform clearly states, we proudly champion our progressive values and assert that reproductive justice is a central and necessary component of an inclusive progressive agenda. The ability to control our fertility and the ability to form families as we choose is intrinsically tied to achieving the goals of gender equity, economic justice, and racial equity.
The hundreds of state legislators from across the nation — from blue states to deep red states — have joined the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council so that we can make our voices stronger together and use the power of state lawmaking for good.