Decriminalizing Abortion

Decriminalizing Abortion2019-11-09T16:44:39-05:00

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, and from diverse backgrounds and communities. Despite what sets them apart, they have one thing in common: they are frequently subject to laws that restrict their access to abortion care.

When a woman has decided to have an abortion, she should be able to access safe, legal, affordable, supportive care.

But since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, states have enacted at least 1,271 medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion access, causing widespread clinic closures and significant barriers to care. This has disproportionately impacted women of color, immigrant women, low-income women, and women in rural communities. Other barriers – such as lack of insurance coverage, distance to the nearest providers, or cultural or language differences – also impede a woman’s ability to get an abortion at a clinic or from a health care provider.

If a woman is not able to get abortion care at a clinic or from a medical provider, history shows that she will find a way.

We believe in abortion without punishment.

Across the country, data shows that women are increasingly searching for how to access abortion online, and websites are popping up to provide medication abortion outside of the medical system.

While research and use over last several decades around the world has shown that medication abortion can be safe and effective when used outside of a medical setting, with the right medication and information, it remains overly regulated by the federal government. The current climate of attacks on reproductive health care has revealed an increased willingness on the part of the anti-abortion movement, anti-abortion politicians and law enforcement to prosecute women for ending their own pregnancies.

For many women who self-manage their abortion using medication abortion, the threat of prosecution is greater than the threat of physical harm. 

NIRH’s priority is to ensure that abortion is not treated like a crime. We are working in states to enshrine protections for reproductive health decisions, including the decision to end a pregnancy, and ensure that no woman is prosecuted for ending her pregnancy, no matter the method or reason. That means decriminalizing abortion in as many states as possible — including in the five states where self-managed abortion is explicitly a crime, and other states with any law that treats abortion as a crime or could be misused to prosecute a woman for ending her pregnancy.

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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