Em-URGE-ing Voices

Your urgent thoughts, urging action

#RJ Wrapped

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December 30, 2023

The Reproductive Justice movement has faced a lot of challenges this year, but has also witnessed several wins. Here’s what our #ReproductiveJusticeWrapped “sounds” like in 2023:

  • April 14, 2023: Colorado Governor Jared Polis approves Senate Bill 23-189, requiring health insurance coverage for the cost of abortions, beginning January 1, 2025.
    • Senate Bill 23-189 is a huge win for reproductive rights advocates in Colorado, as it requires “large employer health benefit plans,” like MetLife, for example, to completely cover the cost of abortion care. This coverage includes deductibles and copayments as well.
    • In addition to abortion justice, SB 23-189 has increased funding for family planning services, coverage for sterilization for plans issues or renewed on or after January 1, 2025, and makes HIV treatment more accessible without previous authorization/step therapy.
  • May 18, 2023: Rhode Island passes the “Health Care for Children and Pregnant Women – Equality in Abortion Coverage” Partisan Bill.
    • This act ensures that abortion services are covered by Medicaid in the state of Rhode Island. Additionally, it prohibits the exclusion of abortion service coverage from state employee insurance plans.
  • May 27, 2023: Texas signs the “CROWN” Act into law, prohibiting racial discrimination on the basis of hair style or texture.
    • The CROWN (“Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) Act was first created in 2019 in California, “extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”
    • Although this legislation is not related to sexual and reproductive rights, it is still inherently reproductive justice. The right to bodily autonomy includes being able to express oneself, their culture, and heritage, without punishment. Texas is also the largest state that URGE serves, making it a big win alongside other advocacy initiatives. 
  • June 15, 2023: The U.S. The Supreme Court upholds the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.
    • Though enacted 45 years ago, the Supreme Court voted (7-2) to uphold “the law’s preferences for Native tribes when Indian children are adopted, ruling that the law does not discriminate on the basis of race and does not impermissibly impose a federal mandate on traditionally state-regulated areas of power.”
    • Reproductive justice includes the right to raise children in a safe, equitable environment. For youth belonging to marginalized communities in particular, it is important that we include their protection and equal opportunities to live a quality life in RJ work. 
  • July 13, 2023: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Opill (norgestrel), the first ever oral contraceptive pill that is available to Americans over-the-counter and without a prescription.
    • Opill is an over-the-counter contraceptive tablet that has been made available to the American public without a prescription, 50 years after FDA first approved the pill with a prescription. There is no age restriction to obtain Opill, which means that marginalized communities─young, queer, of color, and of a lower socioeconomic status─can more easily manage their own abortion. 
  • November 7, 2023: Issue 1 passes in Ohio, incorporating “abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing one’s own pregnancy into the Ohio Constitution.”
    • Issue 1 passing in Ohio, a historically Republican state, is a huge win for the reproductive justice movement. This legislation has changed the Ohio Constitution to protect the right to “one’s own reproductive medical treatment,” including abortion. Issue 1 was introduced and passed alongside Issue 2, legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state for folks 21 and over.
  • December 31, 2023: End of the “Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program,” which provided financial compensation for victims of coerced sterilization by the state of California, beginning January 1, 2022.
    • The Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program (FISCP) has promised financial compensation, about $25,000 per victim, to those who were sterilized without their consent by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and by California State Hospitals. Currently, there is no public record of how many people have been compensated. At least 20,000 people have been sterilized in California since 1979. Read more about the program here: What You Should Know About The Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program (FISCP)

With everything going on in the world, it can be difficult to remember to celebrate our victories. The overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 resulted in several major setbacks for reproductive rights in the United States, and was discouraging for folks who have been part of the fight for bodily autonomy for decades. 

Nonetheless, it also served as a catalyst for activists, politicians, community organizers, and social justice initiatives all over the country in the larger reproductive justice movement. In 2023 alone we have witnessed history with the first over-the-counter contraceptive pill made available without a prescription or age limit, legislation for insurance coverage of abortion services in multiple states, and guaranteed protections for HIV treatment. 

The reproductive justice movement has gained momentum in the United States and beyond, and has been effective in reclaiming sexual and reproductive health rights for communities in need. It is safe to say that no matter how many debates, competing interests, or bigoted actors are involved in asserting control over others bodies, the reproductive justice movement is active and here for good. See you next year!