On Wednesday, state lawmakers in 18 different states across the U.S. announced moves to counter the aggressive executive orders issued by the Trump administration that do everything from call for a rollback of Obamacare coverage, to end U.S. foreign aid to organizations that do anything with abortion care, by introducing their own pro-choice legislation in their states.
The coordinated effort of legislators in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin today mean the introduction of bills that include: requiring crisis pregnancy centers to identify themselves as non-medically licensed facilities, increasing emergency contraception access for survivors of sexual assault, recognizing abortion as healthcare in need of both public and private insurance coverage, and keeping employers from discriminating against employees who have made reproductive health decisions to which they are personally opposed.
The goal? To show, even in red states, that there are legislators committed to trying to create and enforce policies that would protect certain rights, regardless of how Trump continues to attack and dismantle reproductive and sexual healthcare.
On Election Day, President Donald Trump won half of the states where these bills supporting comprehensive reproductive and sexual healthcare were introduced — which is probably largely why the Public Leadership Institute (PLI), a non-partisan policy organization that works with state and local legislators across the country to promote legislation that advance economic and social justice issues, worked with local legislators to help develop and introduce bills that protect reproductive health even in territories seemingly hostile to reproductive rights. Many of the bills introduced today were adopted from or modeled after legislation published in PLI’s A Playbook for Abortion Rights, a resource for policymakers and private citizens alike that provides 29 model policies necessary for improving access to abortion care and shifting the national debate about abortion as healthcare. PLI helps to sample legislation on these issues for legislators to adopt in their home states, and offers expert guidance on how to advance such legislation.
“We’ve been working for awhile on this — these things don’t happen overnight,” Gloria Totten, founder and president of PLI, tells Teen Vogue. “Today presents a major strategy by the reproductive rights movement — many, many state advocacy organizations and many, many pro-choice politicians who are saying, We’re not going to stay on the defense and we’re not going to let the federal government drive abortion strategy in our state and we’re going to get in front of it by putting forward policies that are proactive and expand access to care in this downright dangerous administration.”
Recent polling done by the Pew Research Center shows that over half of Americans — 57%— believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Thirty-nine percent of Americans believe that the procedure should be illegal in most or all cases. Meanwhile, Gallup polling from May 2016 shows that 79% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under all or certain circumstances, with 19% of respondents indicating that the procedure should always be illegal.
“Since the election, no one is sitting down,” continues Gloria. “Many, many more people are approaching us and saying, ‘We didn’t think we were ready before because we live in a red state and don’t have the votes.’ But now we’re hearing, ‘We’ve had it — it’s enough.’ Trump has really inspired a lot of advocates and policymakers to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to be bold now.’”
In other words, the legislation introduced across the country today is representative of a critical truth: Regardless of what the Trump administration says or does, there’s no question that most Americans believe that abortion should be legal and accessible.