15 States Have Failed Women, Turning Their Backs On Reproductive Rights

As the new Republican majority congress settles in, they are making quick work to push more reproductive rights regulation with five new bills that would do things like defund Planned Parenthood and further restrict abortion access.

The pro-life movement in our country is a great threat to women’s rights. In fact, it has escalated beyond a threat and is now in full-scale attack. Tragically, in some places pro-life activists are succeeding.

I hate even writing that. It leaves me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about the decisions that are being made now that will impact my daughter in years to come.

And, we aren’t just talking about if her access to abortion will be greatly restricted. We are talking about basic things like having sexual education in our schools, which has proven to reduce the teen pregnancy rate. We are talking about the access and availability of contraception, which reduces the risk of accidental pregnancy.

And let me just say, opposition of contraception just baffles my mind. How can one oppose contraception AND abortion? The use of contraception reduces the need for abortion! It seems the most pro-life action in our country would be to make contraception widely available and accessible. If pregnancies don’t happen, abortions don’t happen.

The Population Institute (PI) issued Not Making the Grade: A 50 State Report Card, which includes report cards for each state. Sadly, 15 states received failing grades, while only four received an A. The study used four broad indicators comprised of nine criteria to calculate the grades:

  • EFFECTIVENESS: teenage pregnancy rate (15 percent) and rate of unintended pregnancies (15 percent)
  • PREVENTION: mandated comprehensive sex education in schools (15 percent) and access to emergency contraception (5 percent)
  • AFFORDABILITY: expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Car Act (10 percent), Medicaid eligibility rules for family planning (10 percent), and funding for family planning clinics that serve low-income families (10 percent).
  • ACCESS: abortion restrictions (10 percent) and percent of women living in a country without an abortion provider (10 percent)
Photo source: The Population Institute Report "Not Making the Grade: A 50 State Report Card"
Photo source: The Population Institute Report “Not Making the Grade: A 50 State Report Card”

PI was founded in 1969 by a Methodist minister and is a recognized leader in education and advocacy regarding reproductive health. Their vision states:

The Institute promotes both international and U.S. support for voluntary family planning programs, and supports full legal, political, economic, and social equality for women, including sexual and reproductive rights. PI takes the position that every child should be a wanted child. Achieving this goal would prevent the suffering of women and their families and the social problems that often follow the birth of unwanted children.

Robert Walker, president of Population Institute said,

This year should have been a great victory for women’s reproductive health with tumbling teen pregnancy rates and increased access to reproductive health care for women under the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, 23 states?including Louisiana?have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage leaving millions without increased access to family planning services, and several states have enacted abortion restrictions that will have the practical effect of limiting a woman’s access to family planning clinics or legal abortion services.?

He continued,

Women’s access to reproductive health care should not depend on where she lives, but unfortunately it often does. It is imperative that people know how their state ranks against other states, and that they keep advocating advancements in reproductive health and rights.”

Below is the report card for the lowest graded state – Louisiana has failed the women that live there. You may see the full report here.


Photo source: The Population Institute Report "Not Making the Grade: A 50 State Report Card"
Photo source: The Population Institute Report “Not Making the Grade: A 50 State Report Card”

Louisiana received the lowest mark. As seen in the graphic, they do not mandate sex education in schools. No laws have been passed affirming women’s rights to emergency contraception in the emergency rooms. They also chose not to expand their Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. With some of the heaviest restrictions on abortion in the country, 63 percent of the women in the state live in a county that does not have an abortion provider. That means there are women living in the United States right this very second that have a protected right to choose, but have been prevented from employing their liberty to do so.

But, truly, most of the skin placed in this game isn’t so much about the pregnancy or the unborn it’s about the sexual control. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be debating about the availability and accessibility of contraception.

Women shouldn’t be having sex! How dare they!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Not to point out the obvious, but humans have sex. Rich or poor, they do it, like all higher animals living on the earth. Sex is a part of life. That will not change, no matter how many abstinence programs you provide to eighth graders. And part of sex is pregnancy. It happens. From a Thursday night of wild passion between spouses, to the walk of shame on Sunday morning, to two sixteen-year-olds in the backseat of a decade old car on a Friday night it happens.

This form of legislated sexual morality does far more harm than good to our society. Young women of our country deserve the respect of making their own choices regarding their healthcare. Legislation used as hurdles and blockades to reproductive care acts not as a deterrent to sexual activity, but a punishment placed upon low-income women that have sex.

Other states that received a failing grade are Texas, Indiana, North Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Virginia, and Mississippi.

C’mon America, we can do so much better than this.

Tiffany Willis Clark is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America and AmReading.com. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she had a long and successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. In 2011, she made the decision to pursue her dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.