Reproductive Rights Gains and Losses in Last Congress

by Jan Erickson, Government Relations Director and Lisa Ensey, Government Relations Intern

Much to everyone's surprise, a handful of anti-reproductive rights measures met with defeat and several victories were secured before Congress completed business in October. These actions capped the otherwise relentlessly anti-abortion, anti-contraception record of the 105th Congress.  Fifty-three key reproductive rights measures passed - 39 restrict access to services.

NOW Action Center staff members and interns attend the vigil at the US Capitol to honor slain doctor Barnett Slepian. NOW showed support for abortion rights and those who continue to help provide access to full reproductive services. Photo by Beth Corbin. 

The most important action was the Senate vote to sustain the President's veto of the abortion procedures ban (H.R. 1122); the breathtakingly narrow three-vote margin held fast. This vaguely-worded and unconstitutional bill would have meant that before- and after-viability abortions would be prohibited, with no exception for the health of the woman and a very narrow life exception.

Other actions:

Friends and Foes Take Their Positions in the Next Session

The Nov. 3 general election produced a number of pleasant surprises. The most welcome news: reproductive rights supporters made small, but important, gains in the House of Representatives and held onto at least 65 votes in the Senate to oppose the abortion procedures ban.

In the States

A slight gain in favor of reproductive rights occurred in state legislative elections, with the number of legislative bodies having anti-choice majorities declining from 62 to 60 and the number of pro-choice majorities remaining the same at 26.  The difference appears in the number of closely divided legislative Houses and Senates, up from 12 to 14.  Some of the pro-choice legislative bodies, though, may not always have a majority voting correctly on a given bill.

The states elected one additional governor who supports reproductive rights, Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, producing a breakdown of 20 supportive governors, 20 opposed and 10 with mixed records. The state analysis, however, is preliminary and subject to change pending further information.

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