The landscape of state anti-abortion legislation.

Author:Sussman, Rachel
Position:Marriage Equality and Reproductive Rights: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead

Rachel Sussman: Thanks, everybody, for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. I spend most of my time reading bills that intend to restrict access to reproductive healthcare, and taking a break from that, stepping back and hearing from others in this environment, is really important. So I'm thrilled to be here, thank you.

To start, I'll make a quick note about Planned Parenthood. I think we exist in a unique space with regard to advocacy. We are a healthcare provider, so we have hundreds of health centers across the country. One in five women in the United States will visit a Planned Parenthood at some point in her life. (1) So our advocacy and the way we move forward, whether through litigation or public policy and legislation, first and foremost focuses on our patients and how we can serve them best.

So that gives us a unique platform. It also can be challenging because not only are we advocating for our patients, but often we must advocate for ourselves as a service provider in order to keep our doors open.

I will focus on the legislative landscape for reproductive health issues. With the change in control of state legislatures and governors' offices in the 2010 elections came a complete onslaught of efforts to restrict reproductive health services. The floodgates opened.

Arizona is a good example. When Janet Napolitano was in office as governor, she was busy. Veto, veto, veto, veto, right? She had to veto a lot of bad bills. But as soon as she left in 2010, all of the restrictions around reproductive health care services started passing and getting signed. (2) There were hundreds and hundreds of bills. Tracking them alone is a challenge. So to then try to stop them through advocacy in such hostile environments can be very difficult.

Because the environment is so hostile, one tactic that Planned Parenthood and other advocacy organizations has used is simply elevating the fact that this barrage of restrictions is happening. We did this by saying at a fundamental level, our opposition's main goal is trying to chip away at Roe v. Wade through both public policy and public opinion. And so this opening of the floodgates and moving all of these bills represents their effort of chipping away in earnest.

Historically, we had seen many bills that attempted to create barriers for women trying to access abortion. So, for example, we have seen bills that instituted a 24-hour waiting period, or requirements that women go through counseling and hear information that either isn't true or is biased.

What I think switched in 2010--and Bebe Anderson alluded to this in talking about the opposition's efforts to push the frame of keeping women safe (3)--is they started to get into the business of actually regulating healthcare. And through these regulations, which I'm going to talk about in a minute, they were in effect trying to shut down health centers. The regulations may be impossible to comply with, or have absolutely no impact in terms of actual medical safety and therefore may be inappropriate to comply with, or force doctors to actually provide bad medicine.

Right now there are five main categories of bills in my world. The restrictions I was just mentioning that attempt to regulate and shut down health centers are in a broader rubric of what I call "TRAP" bills. "TRAP" stands for Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers. These are all sorts of laws that seek to regulate the physical building of a health center...

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