Partnership will fuel efforts to protect and advance reproductive freedom in Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin through the development of proactive strategies and legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) on Wednesday announced a pivotal new partnership to support on-the-ground efforts that will advance reproductive freedom in states around the country throughout the next year. The project will support advocates to identify new proactive reproductive health, rights, and justice policies to pursue, and move policy agendas that advance abortion access over the next two years, working in partnership with lawmakers.
NIRH will support a total of five organizations across three states: Colorado, Georgia, and Wisconsin, while SiX will work with legislators in those states as part of its Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, a national cohort of state legislators declaring and embracing their support for comprehensive reproductive rights. Together, the advocates and state legislators will strategize proactive, affirmative campaigns to advance abortion access.
“Legislators and advocates alike are embracing the clear need for action that this moment calls for in order to protect and advance abortion rights,” said Kelly Baden, Director of Reproductive Rights at SiX. “Ensuring state legislators are poised to take this on through real collaboration with state advocates on the ground and with NIRH with its national expertise, means this work will be locally grown but integrated into the broader context.”
Over the course of the 2018 legislative session, NIRH and SiX will bring legislators and advocates from key organizations to the table to work toward the development of proactive policy solutions.
Since President Trump was inaugurated a year ago, his administration has been committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, tried to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control insurance mandate, attempted to defund abortion providers, and prioritized health care workers’ personal objections to abortion over the health care needs of women.
But at the state level, there is a growing trend of advocates and policymakers working together to fight back by supporting policies that benefit women and families. In 2017, a total of 645 proactive reproductive health, rights and justice bills were introduced across 49 states and Washington, D.C., according to a recent NIRH report. In their support of these organizations and states, NIRH and SiX will work to accelerate that momentum.
“In 2018, while the Trump administration and Congress intensify their assaults on access to abortion care, aiming to push abortion further out of reach for women who need it, state leadership is more important than ever before,” said Andrea Miller, President of NIRH and NIRH Action Fund. “We’re thrilled to partner with SiX – a leading voice for progressive change – and look forward to standing firmly on the right side of history, arming state lawmakers and advocates with tools they need to work together to fight to advance reproductive health, rights, and justice – with a focus on improve access to abortion care.”
In Colorado, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado are teaming up to work with lawmakers to advance policies ensuring that all Coloradans, including young people, low-income communities, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and public service employees, are able to access the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion.
“An extremist minority in Colorado has waged war on reproductive freedom for decades. The Colorado legislature can and should protect the constitutional rights of women by keeping politicians out of the personal and profound choices women have to make,” said Colorado State Representative Jessie Danielson. “Every Colorado woman deserves access to safe, timely and affordable care – and should be able to do so without fear or under threat of violence.
“As the first state to allow safe, legal abortion 50 years ago, Colorado has a history of being a model state for proactive abortion rights,” said Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado is proud to work in partnership with our allies in the community and our state legislature to put our values and policies into action. All Coloradans should have full access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care including abortion – without stigma – regardless of income, documentation status or where they live.”
“People who already face disparities in access to health care are hurt most when services are made unavailable or unaffordable,” said Karla Gonzales Garcia, Program and Policy Director, COLOR. “It is our communities – people who are living on the margins – who are denied the ability to get the care we need. The ability to seek reproductive health care should not be predicated on how much money you make, how old you are, where your benefits come from, or where you live, but that is what is happening. That is why we are coming together to eliminate barriers and ensure that every person in our state can make their own decisions when it comes to managing our health and planning our families.”
In Georgia, partners on the ground include Feminist Women’s Health Center and SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, which will work together on a multi-year proactive policy strategy, grounded in the reproductive justice framework, to demonstrate the connections between the harms inflicted on women by abortion restrictions and by the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers, and the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the state. In 2018, working with lawmakers and activists, the two organizations are working to move proactive reproductive health legislation, including the Whole Woman’s Health Act, which would codify the fundamental right to abortion into Georgia law.
Said Georgia State Representative Renitta Shannon, “I recently shared the story of my own abortion experience and understand – both as a legislator and as a woman who has needed abortion care – that protecting abortion access and ensuring a woman’s ability to safely give birth are connected. We can’t talk about one component of reproductive health care without addressing the other.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to work closely with these bold and brave legislators, to truly build power for reproductive justice in Georgia,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, Co-Director, Feminist Women’s Health Center. “Our communities are demanding intersectional policies that reflect their lived experiences and full humanity. And that will require legislators who are not only willing to claim a seat at the table, but to totally shake up the table.”
“For the past 10 years, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now has worked towards implementing a reproductive justice framework that uplifts queer and trans people of color – specifically, young queer and trans people of color,” said Randi Gregory, Director of Programs, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. “We look forward to continuing the work of uplifting disenfranchised communities by educating policy makers about the counterproductive effects of draconian reproductive health policies on the health and well-being of these communities.”
In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health will be working to advance the Respect Women Act, a set of three bills that will overturn unnecessary and burdensome abortion restrictions and protect and advance abortion access within the state.
“As an elected official, my job is to work for the betterment of my constituents, not to get in the way of their health care decisions,” said Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor. “Wisconsin has passed more than 20 laws restricting abortion – it’s long past time for that to end and for us to instead work for all people seeking health, dignity, and freedom.”
“The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health is excited to continue our partnership with NIRH and SiX to promote the Respect Women Act, which promotes a vision that every woman in Wisconsin should have the ability and support to make her own reproductive healthcare decisions free from harassment, intimidation, political interference, or false information,” said Sara Finger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health. “This partnership is incredibly important in Wisconsin, where we have seen a historic attack on women’s access to reproductive health care during the past seven years. Wisconsinites are ready to demand that their elected officials advance laws that respect, support, and empower women to make the medical decisions that are best for themselves and their families.”