116TH CONGRESS, 1st SESSION
NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 2019 Congressional Record on Choice documents the key House and Senate votes on reproductive freedom taken during the first session of the 116th Congress.
The 116th Congress reflects a wave of historic firsts—most significantly the first pro-choice majority in the House of Representatives. There are a record number of women serving in the House, and more LGBTQ people serving in Congress than ever before. The freshman class is also younger than most recent incoming classes and the 116th Congress reflects record breaking racial, ethnic, and religious diversity.
Nowhere was the new pro-choice House majority more evident than in the appropriations process. House spending bills for fiscal year 2020 reflected increased funding for vital family planning programs, defunded harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and blocked many of the Trump administration’s efforts to use the regulatory process to restrict access to abortion and family planning services. Though the House bills were not passed by the Senate, we now see what can happen when lawmakers committed to reproductive rights are in control. Unfortunately, some long-standing abortion restrictions remained in the funding bills, but we will continue to work with champions for reproductive freedom to find ways to chip away at these barriers.
Notably, co-sponsorship of the EACH Woman Act continued to grow, bringing the total number of co-sponsors to a record high in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which would repeal bans on abortion coverage in government healthcare programs, reflects a growing movement calling for an end to these restrictions. The Women’s Health Protection Act also achieved a record number of co-sponsors this year. The Women’s Health Protection Act would establish a federal statutory right to abortion and would block the onslaught of state bans and restrictions on abortion. Given continued state efforts to ban and restrict abortion access across the country, we need this legislation now more than ever.
The progressive majority in the House also put an end to the onslaught of Congressional attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s dangerous domestic gag rule and efforts to undermine the ACA in the courts and through the regulatory process could still have devastating consequences on access to reproductive healthcare across the country.
While the House worked its way through the appropriations process, the Senate was hard at work confirming anti-choice nominees to executive and judicial posts, in most cases handing them lifetime positions that will allow them to promote Trump and the Senate GOP’s anti-choice agenda for decades to come. In doing so, the Senate has allowed Trump to change the face of the judiciary—for the worse—for at least a generation. It is hard to overstate the impact that this president has had on the federal court system. Trump has now confirmed over 160 judicial nominees, many of them with reprehensible records
on reproductive freedom and some rated as “not qualified” by the nonpartisan American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary for their lack of legal experience. The list of Trump’s nominees is woefully lacking in gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. Senate Republicans, critical allies in Trump’s strategy to flood the courts with anti-choice judges, have been working to confirm these nominees as fast as possible. Trump judges now account for more than a quarter of federal appellate judges.
Senate Republicans’ attacks on reproductive freedom have not been limited to the courts. The anti-choice Senate majority took breaks from stacking the federal judiciary to introduce bills that would restrict access to abortion by eliminating insurance coverage of abortion (including in the private market) and interfering in the medical practice of abortion care. Thankfully these bills failed on procedural votes.
Our legislative victories in the House are a preview of the potential wins ahead for reproductive freedom under a pro-choice legislative majority. Despite these victories, Roe v. Wade is more vulnerable than ever. This term the Supreme Court decided to take up its first major abortion case since Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed. As we head into a presidential election year, NARAL Pro-Choice America and our 2.5 million member-activists will hold accountable the lawmakers who are attacking reproductive freedom, and we will fight for our champions who know that women and families don’t deserve to pay the price for a political agenda. We remain vigilant in our commitment to defend and advance our fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to decide freely if, when, and how to start a family, and we know that 7 in 10 Americans stand with us.