U.S. Flunks Reproductive Health and Rights Report Card

|Feb 19|magazine6 min read

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time since the inception of the Population Institute's annual 50 State Report Card on Reproductive Health and Rights in 2011, the U.S. as a whole has received a failing grade. The new report card covering 2019 was issued today, two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, a Louisiana case that could further undermine Roe v. Wade and abortion rights.

The Population Institute's report card is the most comprehensive of its kind, tracking multiple indicators of reproductive health and rights, including access to family planning, sex education, and abortion services nationally and state-by-state. It has documented steady erosion of reproductive rights nationally and in states, and individual states have flunked in previous years. But this year is the first time the U.S. as a whole failed.

Factors in the failure include new rules prohibiting Title X-funded physicians and staff from counseling patients on abortion or referring them to abortion providers among other restrictions, which prompted family planning providers to drop out, cutting the Title X network's capacity in half. Title X grants are getting awarded to "crisis pregnancy centers" run by staunch anti-abortion advocates. Some don't even offer contraceptive services.

Federal support for comprehensive, evidence-based sex education proven to reduce teen pregnancy rates is rapidly waning. Instead, the Trump administration promotes "sexual risk avoidance" and an "abstinence-only" approach, which evidence shows fail to reduce teen pregnancy. Judicial appointments in 2019 moved the Supreme Court and lower federal courts to the right, making them more likely to further restrict abortion rights, Title X and contraception coverage and LGBTQ protections under the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, the divide between states that promote reproductive health and rights vs. those that restrict them continues to deepen. This year 20 states got a failing grade on the report card, while seven states received an "A."

"The political war over reproductive health rights is far from over, but the legal and regulatory battle lines have been drawn, and the stakes could not be higher," said Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute.

"Many people of color and low-income individuals are already struggling to access affordable reproductive health care," said Jennie Wetter, the Population Institute's director of public policy. "This report card is a call to action." 

Contact: Stephen Kent, [email protected] 914-589-5988

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SOURCE Population Institute