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

NIRH White Paper – “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: Laws that Put Women at Risk”

The legal status of abortion has changed throughout American history – from legal to illegal and back to legal again. However, women seeking to end an unintended pregnancy have always done so, whether it is legal or not. Our white paper, “When Self-Abortion is a Crime: Laws that Put Women at Risk,” documents this history in New York and assess whether there is any justification for the state’s criminal abortion ban.

July 5th, 2017|

Raising Awareness of the Movement to Criminalize Women for their Abortions

NIRH President Andrea Miller has been an outspoken advocate against the laws that criminalize women for their abortion decisions. She has emerged as one of the leaders in the field ringing the alarm bell about politicians’ threats to shame, pressure, and ultimately punish women who end their pregnancies. See her op-ed in TIME magazine. To read more about our work on decriminalizing abortion, click here.

April 6th, 2016|
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