Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Reproductive Health & Rights

Doctors Can Continue to Practice Modern Medicine After Court Ruling

Yesterday, a state court issued a fantastic decision protecting women’s health. And no, it wasn’t in California or Washington. It was in Oklahoma! Read more »

Menstruation Stigma Has Got to Go. Period.

An unexpected cultural debate was revived by the first Presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle. When Donald Trump didn’t like the way moderator Megyn Kelly framed her questions, Trump said she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” By now most of us have heard the explanation that he meant her nose. Obviously.

What the public has understood the comment to really mean is that Kelly’s behavior was a result of her menstruating — an occurrence that, despite its mundanity, is still tied to stereotypes of surging hormones and emotional instability in people (not just women) who menstruate.

It feels a little maddening to be having this conversation in 2015, but this particular stereotype is just that strong. Let’s state for the record: even if Kelly had been menstruating, attributing any behavior to that fact would still be an attempt to use a woman’s own body to discredit her. Can you imagine ignoring a man’s comments at work because he had, I don’t know, athlete’s foot? Or you could see his five o’clock shadow coming in? But more importantly, stigma around menstruation is a serious threat to girls and women around the world. We can’t afford to further that threat by giving these myths a national profile. Read more »

How Defunding Planned Parenthood Would Destroy Progress in Sex Ed

We all remember our first Sex Ed class: the awkwardness, the giggling, the wishing you hadn’t shown up for school that day, followed by the whispered conversations in the hallway: “I can’t believe you didn’t know that!” But the conversations don’t end by the middle school locker. Suddenly you’re 21 and talking about STIs and your friends are asking you, “Wait, didn’t you learn that in Sex Ed?”

The difference between my education and yours

There is a clear disparity in the sexual education that happens across our nation, so that what you learn is dependent upon where you go to school.  My parent’s decision to send me to a Christian middle school made all the difference in what I learned about my own body. There was no discussion of various birth control methods. According to my teachers, abstinence was the only way to go (disclaimer: abstinence is only effective if you ACTUALLY stay abstinent). Read more »

Planned Parenthood Provides Reproductive Health Care to Millions

At a mere age of fifteen, I was faced with a medical need that required me to take birth control pills. Scared and confused, I turned to my mom. My mom is an excellent doctor, and a loving mother. She self-identifies as feminist, and was more than willing to talk with me about my birth control options. She also referred me to see a gynecologist, who then prescribed me the medication I needed just a few days later. My health insurance covered it all.

I was extremely privileged to be able to receive and pay for those services. I was lucky to have a parent open to having honest conversations with me. Most women in the United States don’t have the same support, resources, or coverage that I had. Luckily for many of these women, they can walk into the open doors of Planned Parenthood and find the health care they need. Read more »

Voters Recognize Reproductive Health is Economic Health

As many women and families know, their economic stability largely depends on being able to make decisions about when and whether to take on the significant costs of raising a child. Access to reproductive health care allows a woman and her family to decide to delay having a child until they are best able. As studies have confirmed [PDF], delaying starting a family or having another child can also allow a woman to continue her education or career, increase her earning power, and attain better economic stability before having a child.

Voters Understand Read more »

Iowa Supreme Court Protects Women's Access to Abortion

Iowans won big on Friday when the state Supreme Court voted 6-0 to strike down a prohibition on the use of telemedicine for medication abortion. In August 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine banned the use of telemedicine for medication abortion by requiring doctors to meet in-person with patients before prescribing the necessary medications. Ignoring the fact that telemedicine for medication abortion is extremely safe, the Board shut down the country’s first program while claiming to care about health and safety. Rightly, the Iowa Supreme Court considered the facts and struck down the restriction because it imposed an unconstitutional burden on the right of Iowa women to access abortion.

The Importance of Iowa’s Telemedicine Program Read more »

Defense Bill Ignores Servicewomen's Constitutional Rights

Servicewomen have committed their lives to the defense of our Constitution, but our own government is denying them their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Servicewomen and dependents of servicemembers are currently prohibited from receiving abortion care at military hospitals except in cases where the woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Practically, this law could mean that a servicewoman is unable to get an abortion.

Some members of Congress tried to restore our brave servicewomen’s constitutional rights. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have repealed this unfair ban. Disappointingly, Senator Shaheen’s amendment did not get a floor vote.

The Current Ban Denies Servicewomen and Dependents of Servicemembers the Care They Need Read more »

New York Assembly Agrees, It's Not Your Boss' Business

There’s this pretty obvious concept that your medical decisions should be between you and your medical provider. For some reason, not everyone agrees. Too often, bosses think that they should have a say in their employees’ reproductive decisions. Specifically, bosses across the country have fired or docked their employees’ pay, because they disagree with their employee’s personal reproductive health care decisions. 

D.C. has stepped up and put an end to this type of discrimination, at least for now. The New York Assembly is trying to do the same. Yesterday, the Assembly voted on and passed AB 1142, known as “the Boss Bill.” This bill says bosses cannot discriminate against employees because of their reproductive health decisions. Now, the Boss Bill moves to the Senate for consideration. Read more »

Déjà Vu: House Tries Again to Make Reproductive Decisions a Fireable Offense

A couple of months ago, the House of Representatives passed a bill to undo a D.C. law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDAA), that protects women from workplace discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions. Fortunately for D.C. residents, because the Senate did not take up the bill to undo D.C.’s law within the allowed time frame, the law took effect on May 2.

The D.C. law is quite simple really. It says that employees shouldn’t be fired for choosing if, when, and how to start a family. Why we would need this law in 2015 is more than troubling; but, unfortunately—even today—some bosses think that the personal reproductive health decisions we make are fair game for retaliation at work.

Now back to the House of Representatives. Never one to miss an opportunity to attack women’s health, the House has decided once again to try to stop the D.C. law. This time it is using its spending power to deny D.C. the ability to use its own local funds to implement this local law. Read more »

The Fifth Circuit Grants Texan Politicians' Wish

In June 2013, as I was bracing myself for my first year of law school, Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster made headline news. At the time, I was unaware of Texas’ anti-abortion bill (H.B. 2) and its devastating impact. H.B. 2 was specifically designed to shut down almost all abortion clinics in Texas. Earlier this week the Fifth Circuit upheld two dangerous provisions in H.B. 2, thereby endangering the health and safety of Texas women.

Abortion is Safe, These Requirements Are Unnecessary  

H.B. 2 mandates that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges with a local hospital despite the fact that abortion is an extremely safe procedure throughout pregnancy. The bill also requires that all clinics providing abortion comply with expensive and unnecessary building standards, such as hall width and parking lot design. Neither provision promotes patient safety. Instead, they impose arbitrary and often impossible to meet standards so that clinics will be forced to close their doors. In fact, H.B. 2 was opposed by major medical groups. Read more »