American Prospect Piece Suggests Focus Areas for Reproductive-Rights Advocates in 2014

December 13, 2013 — Facing an "ever-growing maelstrom of incursions on abortion rights, pro-choice politicians have stayed on the defensive, clinging to the standards established by Roe v. Wade even as conservatives whack relentlessly at their foundations," writes Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, an American Prospect writing fellow, in an opinion piece.

However, "for abortion supporters who are tired of playing defense," she recommends "a few measures that would make a tangible difference for women in the coming year -- and could pass, even in the midst of an abortion apocalypse."

Three Suggestions

One focus area for abortion-rights supporters should be expanding and improving state Medicaid coverage for abortion, according to Thomson-DeVeaux. She notes that because of the federal Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortion except in very limited circumstances, many "women on Medicaid -- who are among the most vulnerable to unintended pregnancy -- have to pay out of pocket for abortion procedures" in most cases.

Some states do use their own funds to provide additional Medicaid coverage for abortion, but there is "room for reform," Thomson-DeVeaux explains. She writes that a series of research briefs from Ibis Reproductive Health showed "that in many of the states where public money is ostensibly available for low-income women's abortions, few providers accept Medicaid because the system is so convoluted and difficult to navigate."

A second goal for abortion-rights advocates should be enacting legislation that allows nurse-practitioners to perform early abortion procedures. Thomson-DeVeaux notes that California earlier this year "passed a law allowing advanced-practice clinicians ... to perform surgical first-trimester abortions." She continues, "If this development doesn't seem especially groundbreaking, think again: Over half of the state's counties have no abortion provider, in large part because it's too expensive to staff rural clinics with a physician."

Thomson-DeVeaux's third suggestion is for activists to "[r]emind state legislatures what women's health protections actually look like." For example, a package of measures introduced in Pennsylvania would establish a buffer zone around abortion clinics to protect patients from protesters, improve workplace policies for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and increase protections for survivors of domestic violence. Although the package "might seem like a cop-out because it doesn't go for the jugular on abortion reform," it is a "smart strategy" for women's health advocates to take, given the Republican majorities they face in Pennsylvania, Thomson-DeVeaux argues (Thomson-DeVeaux, American Prospect, 12/11).