Though 2013 might have brought an array of new abortion restrictions and other setbacks for reproductive rights, there were also a number of reasons for pro-choice allies around the country to be proud this year. Below, the staff of RH Reality Check notes some of the top pro-choice successes of 2013.
1. The “feminist army” rose up in Texas.
How could a steamy Texas summer that saw the passage of some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country be considered a great moment in reproductive rights? Because of the thousands of Texans who descended upon the state capitol building, clad in orange, to speak out against a bill that, when fully implemented, is expected to close all but six abortion clinics in the state. Average Texans took time off work and made the sometimes hours-long trip to Austin, day after day. They organized a “people’s filibuster,” testifying through the night in front of occasionally hostile right-wing legislators, paving the way for state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) to pull off her remarkable 13-hour filibuster. Davis forced Gov. Rick Perry to call a third special session to force the law’s passage, but even today, the “orange army” doesn’t let up: Nearly 20,000 Texans refused to back down in the face of callous conservative politics and asked state health officials to mitigate the impact of the laws, continuing the fight for reproductive autonomy in the Lone Star State. —Andrea Grimes
2. North Carolina residents turned out in droves—and in costume—to fight anti-choice legislation.
This year, some plucky progressives in very-red North Carolina pushed back against the idea that there’s anything “moral” about denying women birth control or safe abortion care. Under the thunderously charismatic leadership of North Carolina NAACP President William Barber, “Moral Monday” protesters came every week to give legislators headaches over voter restrictions, their refusal to expand Medicaid, and attacks on workers and public schools. But rolling back women’s rights really took the cake, and a few dozen protesters soon swelled to over 2,000 when state legislators snuck onerous abortion restrictions into a motorcycle safety bill. To top that off, protesters dressed as Mad Men characters to remind legislators that it’s total turn-back-the-clock crazy-talk to argue over whether women should have full access to birth control in 2013. —Emily Crockett
3. The Obamacare birth control benefit allowed many U.S. women to access contraception without a co-pay.
A whole lot of people stopped paying “lady taxes” for birth control in 2013.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, the number of privately insured individuals who don’t have a co-pay for birth control pills went from 15 percent to 40 percent! (And the percent of those women who are sluts stayed at zero.)
Thanks, Obama! —Erin Matson
4. Judge Edward R. Korman issued a smackdown on emergency contraception.
Despite a mountain of evidence on the safety of emergency contraception and the public health benefits to making it widely available, for at least a decade the federal government caved to pressure from the religious right and refused to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter and without age restrictions. But the Obama administration took political posturing on emergency contraception (EC) to a new level when Secretary of Health and Human Services Katherine Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration’s own recommendation under the Obama Administration to lift sales restrictions and blocked widespread EC access. In April, a federal district court judge called the administration out on it in one of the most searing legal opinions of the year. Comparing the administration’s efforts to restrict the sale of emergency contraception to voter identification efforts, and accusing them of basing political decisions on their discomfort with the idea of teenagers having sex, Judge Edward Korman’s decision not only held the administration accountable for playing politics with women’s health—it was the first step in ending the protracted legal and political battle with the government over EC access. —Jessica Mason Pieklo
5. California expanded abortion access with new legislation.
Amid a sea of legislation restricting access to safe, legal abortion around the country this year, there was one state that bucked the national trend: California. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester abortions in the state, greatly expanding access to abortion care for women. —Lauren Kelley
6. Albuquerque residents and grassroots organizers defeated anti-choice ordinance.
Last month, Albuquerque residents voted down an ordinance that would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation in the city. The real-world impact of the ordinance would have been much broader, however, as Albuquerque is home to one of only four clinics in the entire country that openly provides later abortions. Credited with defeating the ordinance is a broad coalition of grassroots organizers, who worked to inform and connect with voters, and get as many folks to the polls as possible. —Lauren Kelley
7. Reproductive rights supporter Nina Pillard was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
8. SCOTUS stays out of Oklahoma’s medication abortion and ultrasound laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court punted in Oklahoma this year by refusing to hear appeals of blocks to two high-profile laws that would have piled on abortion restrictions in the Sooner State. In early November, the Court dismissed the state’s appeal to reinstate a law the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional because it would have effectively banned medication abortion. About a week later, it refused to hear a challenge to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision blocking the state’s ultrasound law, which would have forced every Oklahoman seeking an abortion to undergo a narrated ultrasound exam and to have the ultrasound image placed in front of her. The decision to leave in place the Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions blocking those restrictions suggests the Roberts Court is inclined to stay out of many of the fights over incremental restrictions on abortion rights. That’s good news for Oklahoma, but may not be such good news for places like Texas. —Sofia Resnick
9. Several states saw at least temporary legal wins against anti-choice laws.
2012 and 2013 may have seen a flood of draconian anti-choice restrictions, but it also saw a flood of litigation in response. In states like Arkansas and North Dakota, lawmakers passed blatantly unconstitutional laws that would ban abortion in some cases as early as six weeks. In Mississippi and Wisconsin, lawmakers attacked abortion access in targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws designed to close clinics and drive providers out of the state. So far, courts have blocked those laws from going into effect while a lawsuit over their constitutionality proceeds. So we’re filing this one away in the “it could have been worse” category and keeping our eyes on these cases for 2014. —Jessica Mason Pieklo
10. West Virginia pro-choice advocates came out strong going into what could be a brutal year for reproductive rights attacks.
Hundreds of West Virginians protested this summer against what they see as Attorney General Patrick Morrissey’s brewing assault on reproductive rights. Morrissey, who is openly anti-choice, appears to be gearing up for an assault on abortion clinics in 2014’s legislative session. But local pro-choice groups have mounted a strong fight, which has already led to some embarrassing setbacks, including prominent anti-choice activists losing lawsuits they’d brought against doctors. “We’ve seen what’s happened in Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, a nonprofit organization that promotes reproductive rights and justice. “We’re saying the buck stops here.” —Sharona Coutts
11. Arizona abortion ban was permanently blocked.
In May, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals permanently blocked an Arizona law that would have banned all abortions at 20 weeks, except in cases of life-threatening medical emergencies. Passed in 2012, the law was intended to test the strength of viability as the point at which a state can restrict or ban access to abortion under Roe v. Wade. Sharply criticizing the district court, which had found that the law does not prohibit all abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, but merely regulates them, the Ninth Circuit called the law unconstitutional. The court further pointed out that any ability of fetuses to feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation did not give Arizona an overriding interest to prohibit pre-viability abortions. —Imani Gandy