NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 2016 Congressional Record on Choice documents the key choice-related House and Senate votes taken during the second session of the 114th Congress.
2016 was another year of exceptional animosity toward women’s rights. Anti-choice lawmakers continued their efforts to undermine reproductive freedom, despite an American majority supportive of legal abortion. This disconnect between public opinion and elected officials also is evident numerically: as the 114th Congress came to a close, only 37 out of 100 senators and 169 out of 435 members of the House were fully pro-choice.
At the start of its second year with majorities in both chambers, anti-choice leadership wasted no time resuming its assault on reproductive rights with a particular focus in three areas: attacks on Planned Parenthood, refusal bills allowing discrimination based on women’s reproductive health decisions, and restrictions on contraception in Zika-response legislation.
Within its first month in session, the House passed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood for one year and voted to override the president’s veto. The House also passed three sweeping anti-choice refusals: a dangerous expansion of the Federal Refusal Clause, a measure blocking a D.C. reproductive-health non-discrimination law, and a provision undermining protections for women and LGBT workers. Thankfully, none of these proposals moved in the Senate.
Over the course of the year, the Zika virus developed into a public-health emergency with particular dangers for reproductive-age women. Rather than acting quickly and responsibly, anti-choice members of Congress played politics with the crisis. They walked away from a bipartisan compromise on a Zikafunding bill and instead repeatedly pushed a bill that would harm – rather than protect–women’s health by restricting funding for contraception. Although the House passed the legislation, pro-choice senators successfully blocked it. After months of pressure from the American public and pro-choice champions, anti-choice leadership finally conceded, removing the restriction on family-planning providers and passing crucial Zika funding.
Despite these attacks on reproductive freedom, the fight over Zika demonstrated that members of Congress are increasingly strong in their defense of reproductive rights. Pro-choice senators refused to allow family planning to be held hostage by ideological extremists. They stood strong against legislation that would have put women at greater risk, forcing anti-choice leadership to back down from its dangerous demands. And cosponsorship of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act continued to grow, bringing the total to a record-high 130 cosponsors. The bill, which would repeal current-law bans on abortion services in government health-care programs, reflects a growing movement on Capitol Hill that restrictions such as the Hyde amendment must go. This positive trend is even more important given the devastating results of the 2016 election.
The election of Donald Trump as president and the retention of anti-choice majorities in the House and Senate pose an immediate threat to reproductive freedom. As president, Trump will have the power to nominate anti-choice federal judges and fill his cabinet with agency heads that are hostile to reproductive rights. He has already threatened to repeal the Affordable Care Act and dismantle its many benefits, fulfill his running mate’s long-held goal of defunding Planned Parenthood, and roll back the protections of Roe v. Wade.
A Trump-Pence administration represents the most serious challenge to reproductive freedom in a generation. However, we are not without hope: Hillary Clinton, a pro-choice champion, won 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, and seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, even in red states.
NARAL Pro-Choice America will stand alongside congressional champions and allies to meet each challenge posed by the incoming administration with the force and support of our one million member activists and the unshakable confidence that Americans want to see their freedoms protected and defended, not dismantled.