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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 19, 2010

As Congress Debates Abortion Coverage in Health-Care Reform, New Report Shows 2009 a Mix of Highs and Lows for Pro-Choice Americans in the States

Washington, D.C.—NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation today released the 19th edition of Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States, the nation's most comprehensive report on choice-related legislation and court decisions. This report, which comes as Congress continues to debate abortion coverage in health-care reform, shows a mix of progress and setbacks for choice across the country.

On the federal level, President Obama reversed anti-choice policies enacted by the previous administration and nominated individuals with pro-choice records to key federal positions. NARAL Pro-Choice America also successfully worked with allies in Congress to lift a ban on Washington, D.C.'s ability to use locally raised funds to provide abortion services for low-income women, eliminate two discredited "abstinence-only" programs, and increase funding for domestic and international family-planning programs.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, said that House and Senate passage of health-reform bills that include provisions making it more difficult or virtually impossible for women to buy insurance with abortion coverage in the new system overshadowed the progress.

"For pro-choice Americans, 2009 was a roller-coaster ride," Keenan said. "On one hand, we saw positive changes in policies that will make a difference in the lives of women and their families. On the other hand, anti-choice politicians used health reform to advance destructive and divisive attacks on women's access to abortion coverage. The challenges we face on health reform are a reminder that, despite our success in changing the choice-related composition of Congress and a pro-choice White House, anti-choice lawmakers still outnumber our pro-choice allies. Every time we take a step forward we will face unrelenting resistance from anti-choice politicians who will sink to new lows to undermine women's freedom and privacy."

Keenan said the report outlined a similar combination of progress and setbacks at the state level, including the following highlights:

Pro-Choice Progress:

  • In 2009, 14 states and Washington, D.C. enacted 21 pro-choice measures.
  • Wisconsin enacted a law that requires health-insurance plans that provide prescription-medication benefits to cover contraceptives and required pharmacists to fill valid birth-control prescriptions.
  • Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington enacted laws that improve sex education in schools.
  • Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors receive information about and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms.

Anti-Choice Attacks:

  • Utah and D.C. enacted laws to ensure that sexual-assault survivors receive information about and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms.
  • In 2009, 14 states enacted 29 anti-choice measures, increasing the number of anti-choice measures enacted in states since 1995 to 610.
  • Virginia enacted a law that establishes "Choose Life" license plates. A portion of the proceeds from these plates funds anti-choice organizations known as "crisis pregnancy centers" that target women considering abortion and often mislead, coerce, and intimidate them.

Arizona enacted a far-reaching law that includes a litany of anti-choice provisions that, among other things, subject women to state-mandated lectures and waiting periods that delay access to abortion care. The law also allows certain individuals or entities to refuse to provide abortion services and to refuse to provide or dispense contraceptives.

Keenan cited Arizona as a prime example of how a change in a state's political landscape can have real consequences for a woman's right to choose. Even though a court intervened and stopped some of that state's new anti-choice provisions from taking effect, the 2009 law caused Arizona's grade on reproductive rights to drop from a B- to a D+.

"The departure of pro-choice champion Janet Napolitano from the governor's mansion in Arizona illustrates the importance of having elected leaders who stand up for a woman's right to choose," Keenan said. "Arizona's new anti-choice governor is a willing participant in attacks on women's privacy – a complete reversal of former Gov. Napolitano's legacy as a defender of pro-choice values. That means women are worse off today in Arizona than they were at this time last year."

Keenan also said that NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation dedicated this edition of the Who Decides? report to the late Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was murdered inside his church in May, and his family, to all abortion-care providers, and to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The report, which includes a summary of federal and state laws as well as a ranking and grades of states, is available online.

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Contact:
Samantha Gordon, 202.973.3032


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