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May 12, 2022

Pressley, Williams, 114 Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Defend Reproductive and Sexual Health Care

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) and 114 House colleagues in introducing a resolution opposing the criminalization of the full range of reproductive and sexual health care, including abortion, gender-affirming care, and contraceptive care. The resolution also disapproves of the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes. The resolution is being co-led by Congresswomen Alma S. Adams Ph.D. (NC-12), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Jackie Speier (CA-14). 

“Our work to protect our reproductive freedom did not end with the Senate’s shameful failure to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act,” said Rep. Pressley. “Abortion care is a fundamental human right, and we must continue to use every lever at our disposal to protect reproductive rights across this country. That means pushing back against any efforts to criminalize pregnancy outcomes and those seeking sexual and reproductive health care, including gender-affirming and abortion care. This resolution would help us do just that and I am grateful to Congresswoman Williams and our colleagues for their partnership.”

“Someone you know, someone in your family, or someone you love currently relies on or will need abortion, contraception, gender-affirming care, or other essential health care. I worked on the frontlines of reproductive health care and saw the sacrifices people made to get the care they needed,” said Rep. Williams. “Criminalizing people who need or who provide reproductive health care won’t save lives. Criminalizing reproductive health care services puts them out of reach for many millions of people in marginalized communities.” 

The resolution reads in part:

“Congress condemns the misapplication of  criminal laws to punish people for the outcomes of  their pregnancies; affirms that people deserve access to  high-quality health  care without fear of  reprisal or punishment; condemns the criminalization of providing essential health care; affirms  the ethical obligations of health care providers to safeguard patient privacy; declares a vision for  a future where access to abortion, contraception, and gender-affirming care is universally free from restrictions and bans and people are able to manage care on their own  terms, free  from  discrimination  or  punishment…” 

The resolution is endorsed by 151 organizations including: Physicians for Reproductive Health, If/When/How, the National Center for Transgender Equality, NARAL, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Guttmacher Institute, Feminist Women’s Health Center, and the New Georgia Project Action Fund. Click here for the full list of endorsing organizations. 

“As a provider of comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion care, I know how important it is for people to be able to access timely, compassionate health care. These dangerous political restrictions being enacted against abortion care and gender-affirming care, and the ongoing threats on access to contraceptive care, make clear that no one is safe. It is time for Members of Congress to send an unequivocal message that no matter someone’s health care needs or the pregnancy outcomes they experience, no one should be criminalized for getting the care they need. People deserve compassion, not judgment, stigma, or punishment. Abortion is not going anywhere. Contraceptive care is not going anywhere. Gender affirming care is not going anywhere. People will continue finding ways to get the care they need, and they should not be surveilled or criminalized for doing so,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, President & CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“The threat of criminalization deters people from seeking medical care when they need it, undermines trust between patients and their health care providers, and violates the rule of law. Criminalization is discriminatory, and it targets communities that are disproportionately policed and surveilled like communities of color, people who are struggling financially, immigrants, young people, and trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive people. No one should be criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes or for seeking the health care they need,” said Sara L. Ainsworth, J.D, Senior Legal & Policy Director of If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.

“Politicians around the country are targeting the transgender community and health care providers, trying to deny us access to life-saving health care. These bad-faith attacks are putting lives at risk, and it’s critical that the US Congress works to ensure no one is denied abortion care, gender-affirming care or contraceptive care. To criminalize appropriate medical care is an abuse of power that must be opposed,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Americans need their representatives in Congress to take a strong stance in support of reproductive freedom. That’s why NARAL Pro-Choice America is proud to support Rep. Nikema Williams’ resolution opposing the criminalization of abortion care and other essential healthcare, including contraception and gender-affirming care. People across the country are already arrested or charged for pregnancy outcomes—and the threat of criminalization is as dire as ever. As the Supreme Court prepares to end the constitutional right to abortion as we know it, we’re proud to support leaders like Rep. Williams who are fighting to safeguard abortion access and protect our fundamental freedoms,” said Mini Timmaraju, NARAL Pro-Choice America President.

“Feminist Women’s Health Center is deeply concerned about the rising trend of criminalizing reproductive healthcare and gender affirming care. Both are threats to our individual bodily autonomy and our ability to provide lifesaving care that transforms people’s futures. We must do everything we can to protect patients and providers from prosecution under these tyrannical laws. Our communities deserve unfettered access to safe, affordable, and compassionate healthcare where they live,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, Executive Director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center.

Yesterday, Rep. Pressley delivered a passionate floor speech in which she slammed the white supremacist history of the anti-abortion movement and implored the Senate to stand on the right side of history by passing WHPA and codifying the right to abortion care into law. Full video of her remarks is available here.

In June, Congresswoman Pressley, along with U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), bicameral federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion care, everywhere.  Last week, she issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In September, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s inaction on SB-8, Texas’ restrictive abortion law. Later that month, she participated in a House Oversight Committee hearing to examine the threat posed by abortion bans and underscored the urgency of the Senate passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. 

As Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus’s Abortion Rights and Access Task Force, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to repeal the Hyde Amendment and protect comprehensive reproductive health care for all, including abortion care. 

Over the course of her first term serving in Congress, Congresswoman Pressley has filed amendments every year to repeal Hyde from annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bills and in July published a Medium post on the importance of doing so. 

    In April, Rep. Pressley, along with Congresswomen Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), led a group of 131 Democratic members in reintroducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act or the EACH Act, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and ensure that all people, regardless of income, insurance or zip code, can make personal reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians. In May 2020, she led more than 155 Members of Congress in calling on House Democratic leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 relief packages rejected Republican efforts to use the public health crisis to diminish abortion access. In May 2019, she led more than 100 colleagues in introducing H.Con.Res.40, a resolution reaffirming the House of Representative’s support for Roe v. Wade. In June 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced H.R. 3296, the Affordability is Access Act, to make oral contraception available without a prescription.  In September 2016, as a member of the Boston City Council, Pressley championed a resolution calling on Congress and President Obama to repeal the Hyde Amendment and reinstate insurance coverage for abortion services.
Click here for the full text of the resolution.