Decriminalizing Abortion

Decriminalizing Abortion2019-06-19T16:46:00-04:00

Abortion: Health Care, Not a Crime

One in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. They are women of a range of ages, races, and religions, from diverse backgrounds and communities, and are at different points in their lives. Despite what sets them apart, they have one thing in common: they are frequently subject to laws that restrict their access to abortion care.
Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, states have enacted 1,193 medically unnecessary restrictions to accessing abortion, causing widespread clinic closures, and significant barriers to accessing abortion care. This has disproportionately affected women of color, immigrant women, low-income women, and women in rural communities.
If the Supreme Court takes away the legal right to abortion in this country, access to abortion will be left entirely up to individual states. This will push access even further out of reach and result in women and providers being criminalized for seeking or providing abortion care.

We believe in abortion without punishment.

With the implications of a gutted Roe, and fewer abortion clinics open and accessible, we now face the perfect storm for the criminalization of women and medical professionals for seeking or providing abortions. The number of women who manage their own abortion, out of choice or necessity, would likely surge. Archaic laws criminalizing abortion could become enforceable and states could introduce new legislation to ban abortion outright, as they have in Ohio.
We have already seen examples of overzealous prosecutors misusing state laws to prosecute women for ending their own pregnancies, like in the case of Purvi Patel, who was sentenced to 20 years for doing so.  
Criminalizing abortion would have disastrous effects: it would deprive millions of women the access to abortion care they need and deserve. It would disproportionately affect and criminalize people of color, low-income individuals, and underserved communities.  And it could lead to disproportionate targeting and prosecution of medical providers of color.
States need to be working to protect abortion rights and access. Public support is at an all-time high; a vocal minority should not be allowed to turn abortion care into a crime.
The National Institute for Reproductive Health supports state and local based initiatives that advance the goals of the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements, including access to abortion care, without shame, pressure, fear, or punishment.

State-based Campaigns

Our Successes

New Mexico

Both NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund have worked steadily in New Mexico for several years to ensure that New Mexico repeals its pre-Roe law criminalizing abortion access and continues to be a haven for abortion access in the Southwest. In 2021, with a newly strengthened majority in support of abortion access in the State Senate, New Mexico successfully repealed its outdated criminal abortion law. 

March 1st, 2021|

Virginia Legislative Victories

Both NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund have worked steadily in Virginia for several years — Virginia has now passed proactive abortion laws two years in a row, rolling back a host of restrictions to create a much-needed access point in the Southeast. Virginia had once been infamous for its attacks on abortion care, passing a raft of barriers to abortion access throughout the 2010s. The NIRH Action Fund worked in Virginia in 2017 and 2019, and in the 2019 elections, Virginia voters elected a pro-choice majority in the General Assembly for the first time in two decades. New lawmakers [...]

February 25th, 2021|

Massachusetts legislative victories

One of our core strategies has been to pass laws in every state possible to secure reproductive freedom. In Massachusetts, we worked alongside partners for many years to reform the Commonwealth’s surprisingly restrictive reproductive health laws, securing reproductive freedom in state law, removes barriers to abortion and expands access to this care. In 2017, we worked together to pass the ACCESS (Advancing Contraceptive Coverage and Economic Security in our State) bill, which put in place state-level protections for contraceptive access without a copay. In 2018, we passed the NASTY Woman Act, repealing the commonwealth’s centuries-old criminal abortion law. Armed with [...]

January 2nd, 2021|

Abortion Without Punishment Campaigns

With the implications of a gutted Roe, and fewer abortion clinics open and accessible, we now face the perfect storm for the criminalization of women and medical professionals for seeking or providing abortions. Archaic laws criminalizing abortion could become enforceable and states could introduce new legislation to ban abortion outright, as they have in Ohio. In 2018 and 2019, NIRH supported statewide campaigns in Ohio, New York, and Michigan to decriminalize people seeking abortions and providers who offer abortion care.

March 12th, 2019|
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