by Maya Paley of NCJW/LA and Serena Josel of Planned Parenthood LA:
In 2012, Arizona passed legislation prohibiting the state from contracting with abortion providing organizations except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Meanwhile, the California state legislators were the first to approve a state exchange program under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act that expands access to abortion and healthcare for low-income women. When it comes to securing women's rights and being a model for the rest of the nation, California has much to be proud of.
Californians play an important role when it comes to the reproductive rights agenda: we expand the parameters of conversation and put new policy ideas on the map. On the upcoming anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Californian women and men should remind themselves of California’s legacy of setting an example by creating more change within our state and by increasing pressure on others and on the federal government to support comprehensive women’s health policies and programs.
We should be proud of our successes: the Reproductive Privacy Act was passed in 2002, ensuring a woman’s right to abortion in CA even if Roe v. Wade is overturned in the future. California provides funding so that teenagers can obtain contraception and get tested for sexually transmitted infections. They can even obtain emergency contraception without parental consent through California’s Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment program (Family PACT). In 1999, California became one of only 11 states at the time that required private insurance companies to cover contraception. Family PACT was started as early as 1997, providing either free or very low-cost health services to low-income women. Family PACT does not cover abortion or prenatal care, but it does cover gynecological preventive care, birth control, the “morning-after pill,” STI testing, and infertility treatment.
While we take pride in these accomplishments, we mustn’t become complacent. California still has one of the highest rates of women without health insurance at over 21%, which is above the country’s average of 19%. There is more work to be done and we might start with asking why so many women in California are uninsured and what we can do about it.
It is also our duty to utilize our strategic positioning as the progressive and visionary state to continue pressuring other states and the federal government to protect the Roe v. Wade ruling. States such as, Arizona, Texas Virginia, Michigan, Missouri, and many others continue to introduce and pass prohibitions on women’s health. The Guttmacher Institute has documented that in 2011, 24 states enacted 92 provisions restricting access to abortion including arbitrary waiting periods, scripted counseling, and ultrasound requirements. 26 US States stress abstinence in sex education, ignoring what really works in STI and pregnancy prevention today.
Nationally, several anti-women’s health bills have already been introduced by Congress members in 2013. There’s the Sanctity of Human Life Act, defining life as beginning at fertilization and promoting a ban on abortion without exception. There are two Title X defunding bills aiming to bar Planned Parenthood from its participation in federal health programs. Michele Bachman has introduced a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides breast cancer screenings, pap tests, and other preventive care to women with no additional co-pay. And Steve King has introduced another bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
While none of these bills have much support within Congress, they reflect how serious and how determined some elected officials are when it comes to preventing women from accessing proper, preventive, and necessary healthcare. They represent the ongoing goal to undermine the Supreme Court decision made 40 years ago, on January 22, 1973, which stated that a woman has a right to privacy, and therefore a right to decide what is right for her when it comes to her body and her health. Every year since 1976, Congress has passed a ban called the "Hyde Amendment" which withholds coverage of abortion for women in most federal health plans.
Beyond making phone calls, writing emails, and sending petitions, we in California have a duty to continue our legacy of being on the frontlines of progress for women’s health. We are the visionaries, creating common sense programs that have led to the largest reduction in teen pregnancy in the last decade, emergency contraceptives in the emergency room, and the guaranteed right to choose in our state constitution. Whenever we expand access and healthcare to women in California, we are effectively pressuring the rest of the country to follow suit. In honor of Roe v. Wade, we encourage California to renew its dedication to women’s health, access to abortion, and the right to choose.
Maya Paley is the Director of Community Engagement and Special Programs at NCJW/LA. Serena Josel is the Public Affairs Director of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. Join NJCW/LA and Planned Parenthood for a panel featuring Sandra Fluke, Serena Josel, Dr. Arthur Fleisher, and Reina Martinez and Moderated by Michele Kort of Ms. Magazine: “Abortion Under Siege: Discussing Today’s Challenges on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade.” Event takes place on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 from 11:30-1:30 pm at NCJW/LA Council House (543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles). Event is free to the public.