NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 2017 Congressional Record on Choice documents the key choice-related House and Senate votes taken during the first session of the 115th Congress.
As expected, 2017 was a calamitous year for reproductive freedom. Rarely since Roe v. Wade has the right to choose been more vulnerable to legislative, judicial, and executive-branch threats. In fact, as the year came to a close, only 40 of 100 senators and 174 of 435 members of the House were fully pro-choice.
The House, as in years past, began this congress by turning its attention almost immediately to attacking reproductive freedom. In January, the House passed a bill effectively banning abortion coverage in the state health-insurance exchanges, and shortly thereafter passed another bill to make it easier for states to defund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. This assault on the right to choose continued throughout the year, and the chamber eventually passed a measure blocking a D.C. reproductive health non-discrimination law and a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Fortunately, many of these measures haven’t yet moved in the upper chamber.
In the Senate, the Trump administration saw great success in its efforts to stack both the executive and judicial branches with anti-choice extremists. After confirming two such executive nominees, Tom Price to be Health and Human Services Secretary and Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, right out of the gate, the Senate turned its attention to the fight over the nomination of now-Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. When a strong coalition of pro-choice senators announced their intent to vote against the nomination, anti-choice leaders went so far as to change the rules of the Senate so that they could confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority, handing him a seat from which he will be free to promote Trump’s anti-choice agenda for decades to come.
Despite these constant attacks, we are heartened by the strong resistance put forth by the American public and our pro-choice champions in Congress this year. Nowhere was this strength more evident than in the repeated defeat of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. After seven years boasting of their plans to repeal the landmark healthcare law, anti-choice leaders were met with unprecedented opposition from their pro-choice colleagues and from their own constituents. It took several tries to get this extreme piece of legislation passed in the House, and the Senate was unable to pass the bill in its entirety. Unfortunately, both chambers did succeed in dismantling a key ACA provision in separate legislation. Blocking full repeal of the law was a great victory and is thanks entirely to the incredible individuals who filled rallies, flooded congressional phone lines, and bravely shared their stories, and by our pro-choice champions in Congress, who lifted up those stories, rallied with their constituents, and held their colleagues accountable.
2017 was an undeniably tough year. But in the face of assaults on all fronts, we saw the very best of this country: millions of people worldwide marched for women’s rights, thousands showed up at airports to support immigrants banned from entering the country on the basis of religion, and a community of Americans of many backgrounds came together to promote kindness, acceptance, and freedom. NARAL Pro-Choice America is proud to be a part of the fight to preserve this country’s values. Hand in hand with our 1.2 million member activists, we will continue to defend the fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all Americans in the United States Constitution.