National Conference of Mayors’ Resolution Shows Widespread Support for Reproductive Rights

The past two years have brought overwhelming rhetoric against reproductive freedom and the passage of an unprecedented number of restrictions at the state level. Representative Lisa Brown’s statements against Michigan’s HB 5711, and the uproar they caused, crystallize the battle pro-choice members of state legislatures continue to face in supporting the health and rights of women.  

However, a resolution passed Saturday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors sends a strong message that there is widespread support for reproductive rights among city leaders throughout the country. On Saturday June 16, the US Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization representing about 1,300 cities, passed a resolution in support of comprehensive reproductive health for women – from contraception to abortion care.

A cigar is just a cigar – and this resolution is just that: a statement of belief. It cannot overrule state or federal law. But it does demonstrate that state leadership seeking to erode reproductive rights may face opposition among city leaders. Against the backdrop of the past two years of reproductive health restrictions, this resolution is a glimmer of hope for reproductive justice advocates. Despite state and federal rankling over reproductive health, city leaders seem to be clear allies for reproductive justice.

Though the resolution doesn’t have the power to change state or federal policy on its own, it can fuel local support for Planned Parenthoods and other community-based reproductive health providers that have been the victim of state-level defunding. It also counters the outrage toward the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraceptives.

Almost as if to call out by name the state-level restrictions on Planned Parenthood as well as the uproar over health reform, the resolution reads, in part:

“WHEREAS, reproductive-health care and the overwhelming majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood health centers is basic health care for women, including cancer screenings and breast exams….and WHEREAS, if these services disappear, more women are likely to contract diseases that will imperil their lives and lead to highly expensive Medicaid and Medicare bills borne by taxpayers; …. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress and the states to pursue a positive agenda that reaffirms fundamental rights and improves women’s access to safe and comprehensive reproductive-health care.”

The full resolution can be found here.

This is the first time the conference has supported a comprehensive reproductive rights resolution. The resolution is sponsored by Mayors Ed Lee of San Francisco, Mike Bloomberg of NYC, Sam Adams of Portland, and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. (Bloomberg, as it happens, is hinting he is a Mitt Romney supporter in the 2012 election.)

Citing the fact that there were twice as many restrictions on reproductive choice in 2011 as there were in 2010, the US Conference of Mayors’ resolution urges Congress to support a comprehensive reproductive freedom agenda.

The US Conference of Mayors represents cities with population of 30,000 or more. Its goal is to strengthen federal-city relationships and promote effective urban policy.  

Reproductive justice advocates need reasons to be hopeful. State restrictions as well as federal opposition to basic reproductive health seems to be endless. The U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution indicates there is deeper potential to organize at the local level to repeal state laws, as well as shore up support for reproductive justice efforts in communities throughout the country.

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