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The year 2012 marked important gains for women's reproductive health. On June 28, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama's landmark health-reform law. Perhaps the greatest advancement for women's health in a generation, the ACA takes significant steps toward bringing more than 30 million Americans into a better health-care system—one that includes access to affordable health insurance and improved coverage of family-planning services and maternity care. Additionally, effective August 1, the law requires that newly issued health-insurance plans cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, guaranteeing women full coverage of birth control at no additional cost. These developments represent critical gains for women's health.
Yet rather than help to implement the ACA or take other positive steps to improve women's reproductive health, anti-choice lawmakers in Congress devoted their energy in 2012 to doing the exact opposite. Specifically, they attacked reproductive rights on the following fronts:
- Refusal Law: In response to President Obama's birth-control policy, anti-choice members of Congress introduced a flurry of bills and held numerous hearings in forceful opposition. This culminated in one floor vote: the Senate tabled an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that would have allowed any employer to deny his employees coverage of any preventive-health service required under the ACA for virtually any reason.
- CIANA: For the past 15 years, anti-choice lawmakers have tried to pass legislation that would harshly restrict young women's access to abortion services. In its current form, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) would make it a federal crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a minor across state lines for abortion services. It also would impose an impossibly complex patchwork of parental-involvement laws on women and doctors across the country. The House Judiciary Committee marked up the legislation and pro-choice members offered a total of 15 amendments; unsurprisingly, all were defeated. Anti-choice legislators also tried to attach CIANA to the Violence Against Women Act as an amendment in May; thankfully, they were unsuccessful.
- D.C. 20-Week Ban: House anti-choice lawmakers unveiled a new attack on women's access to abortion care when they introduced the misleadingly named District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by anti-choice Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). The bill singles out the District of Columbia for an outright ban on abortion care after 20 weeks. Supporters have admitted it is intended to provide a direct court challenge to Roe v. Wade. Although the bill garnered a majority vote, it was considered under special rules and therefore failed.
- PreNDA: In another new federal attack on reproductive rights, the House took up the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PreNDA). This legislation, also sponsored by anti-choice Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), would criminalize a doctor for the reasons a woman seeks abortion care. Although the bill garnered a majority vote, it was also considered under special rules and thankfully failed.
NARAL Pro-Choice America's 2012 Congressional Record on Choice documents reproductive-health votes taken in the House and Senate during the second session of the 112th Congress. The highly polarized 112th Congress has only 153 fully pro-choice House members out of 435, and 40 of 100 senators.
In sum, anti-choice politicians in Congress spent 2012 launching relentless and sustained legislative attacks on a woman's right to choose—in the form of both old proposals and new. Thanks to the pro-choice-controlled Senate and President Obama in the White House, ultimately none succeeded. Nevertheless, the distressingly high number of elected officials eager to dismantle reproductive freedom should give all fair-minded Americans cause for concern. As we look ahead and prepare for President Obama's second term, NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to defend a woman's right to choose and define a pro-choice vision that will ensure reproductive freedom for future generations of Americans.