States made record number of reproductive health proposals in 2019, report finds

States introduced 944 proactive reproductive health bills and enacted 147 of those bills into law in 2019 — the highest number enacted since the National Institute for Reproductive Health began keeping track four years ago, according to an NIRH report released Jan. 3.  

The NIRH reviewed six policy areas at the state level from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 15, 2019: prohibiting interference with reproductive healthcare, access to abortion, access to contraception, comprehensive sexuality education for young people, access to pregnancy care, and supporting parents and families. 

The report found more states enacted laws to protect and expand abortion coverage last year than any other year recorded. In total, 29 states and the District of Columbia passed 15 related bills. Illinois, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont repealed old laws that had made abortion a crime and implemented laws protecting reproductive rights.  

Numerous states also worked to advance reproductive healthcare and rights for incarcerated women. Arkansas, Nebraska, Utah and Virginia joined 28 other states that forbid shackling women during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery.

Illinois, New Jersey and New York passed legislation to reduce racial disparities by establishing maternity care standards and training healthcare providers. A dozen states developed or strengthened maternal mortality review commissions, triple the number created in 2018.  

The increase in proactive policy change could be due to new progressive majorities in state legislatures and new governors who support abortion rights following the 2018 midterms, the report reasons.

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