In recent years, anti-choice extremists have made unprecedented legislative gains in states across the country, significantly limiting women’s access to reproductive health care – particularly, abortion – and undermining the basic legal protections to make these important decisions. Recognizing that proactive initiatives are not won in a single year and that countering attacks on reproductive rights is a long-term proposition, the National Institute employs creative defensive measures to turn the tide on abortion restrictions.
We view anti-choice attacks as an opportunity to build the movement, lift up the extremism of our opponents, and ensure that we are using language and strategies that ultimately propel us forward, instead of keeping us back on our heels. This includes developing proactive language, identifying opportunities to mitigate the impact of harmful bills, and encouraging our partners to take the long view in the defensive strategies they employ. It also means using opportunities for defense as a strategy to bring coalitions and other partners together and strengthen them for future, proactive battles.
Since 2011, the National Institute has developed partners’ capacity to build public opposition to anti‐choice initiatives in a diverse group of states. For example, advocates in North Dakota successfully defeated a personhood ballot initiative in the state, and pro-choice organizations’ work in North Carolina demonstrated the power of regulatory advocacy in protecting abortion access. The Michigan coalition successfully shut down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the legislature’s lame duck session. And the National Institute’s investment in Texas helped set the stage for the world-recognized movement against HB2.
Even in instances of legislative defeat, partners continue to experience movement-building wins that are integral to sustaining the pro-choice momentum. With the National Institute’s support, our partners have strengthened and diversified coalitions, broadened engagement, grown online supporters and grassroots activists, and raised public awareness of their issues. While advocates were not always able to block anti-choice policy, these organizations came through these fights stronger and more energized.