With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, advocates are responding to escalating attacks on reproductive rights. And with Justice Neil Gorsuch now seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, the future of reproductive healthcare hangs in the balance. We should all be concerned. While Texas serves as a warning of things to come, Colorado provides an example of what’s possible in terms of state-level resistance to Trump’s reckless healthcare agenda.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott just signed SB 8 into law this week, and the implications are grim. Some say this dangerous law could criminalize abortion providers and even people who drive someone to get abortion care. On a parallel track, the state has disinvested in women’s healthcare more broadly, forcing cutbacks that have shuttered health clinics. After a spike in maternal deaths, Texas now has the worst maternal health outcomes in the developed world. Hopefully, SB 8 will be defeated in court.
Colorado, meanwhile, is charting a different course. The state invested in a cutting-edge pilot program to provide young women and low-income women with improved access to long-acting, reversible contraception (LARCs) like IUDs and hormonal implants. The result was a 40 percent reduction in unintended teen pregnancies–an outcome the New York Times dubbed a “startling success.” This year’s state budget included funding for the Colorado Family Planning Initiative with bipartisan support. “It works. It changes lives. And along the way it saves the state of Colorado a lot of money. I think that’s a win, win, win for everybody,” Rep. Don Coram said in support of the initiative. (Confession: we love Colorado’s family planning effort so much we made a video about it!)
Earlier this week, Colorado made additional progress. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law to allow women to secure one year’s worth of birth control at once, a measure expected to particularly help women in rural communities who face greater access barriers. Weeks earlier, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee approved similar legislation. As states tend to operate as laboratories for good ideas to take root, we hope this trend continues.
Boosting birth control access at the state level is especially timely given the Trump administration’s recent move to roll back birth control access as provided under ACA. If Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price approves a recently proposed rule, the federal government could permit all employers to refuse birth control as required under ACA’s contraceptive mandate–for basically any reason. If finalized, this move could jeopardize LGBT health and do “serious harm” overall, as the Washington Post editorialized. Worse yet, Congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood could add insult to injury. Naturally, people around the country are rushing to get LARCs while they still can.
States can–and must–serve as a bulwark against federal efforts to restrict family planning access. But as Colorado and Texas teach us, leadership makes all the difference.