Since the passage of Ohio’s extreme anti-abortion law, we’ve heard from people actively seeking abortion care, people worried about their options for the future, and people just curious about what was happening.

As soon as Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the abortion ban into law this spring, our phones started ringing.
Justin Merriman / Getty Images

Over the last decade, politicians in Ohio have hijacked our state legislature and turned it into a conveyor belt of anti-abortion legislation, most recently a ban on abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant. Through it all, our message has been clear: Abortion is still legal in the state of Ohio.

At Preterm, an independent, nonprofit abortion clinic in Cleveland, we have been working to protect our patients’ access to care for decades. As Ohio’s largest clinic, we provide abortion and sexual health care for nearly 6,000 Ohioans every year, and we have taken the state of Ohio to court time and time again to fight for our patients. 2019 has been no different.

As soon as Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the abortion ban into law this spring, our phones started ringing. Each caller had the same question: Is abortion still legal in Ohio? As Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri all enacted their own unconstitutional and dangerous bans into law, the confusion only increased. Thanks to court decisions, none of those laws are currently in effect. Still, we heard from people actively seeking abortion care, people worried about their options for the future, and people just curious about what was happening, all wondering if abortion was now illegal throughout the Midwest and southern United States.

So, together with our friends at Women Have Options/Ohio and the Digital Defense Fund, and following in the footsteps of reproductive justice groups in Georgia like ARC Southeast, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Sister Song, SisterLove, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and URGE, we launched Both Georgia’s site and ours are dedicated to informing people about the status of abortion in two states where radical, anti-abortion, extremist politicians have muddied the waters with intentionally confusing and cruel legislation and rhetoric. This confusion is happening around the country, but particularly in the Midwest and South—where anti-abortion legislation has reached a zenith.

Just a few days after our Ohio site launched, we learned of a woman who discovered she was pregnant around the same time the six-week abortion ban in Ohio was signed into law. She assumed the law was in effect and she no longer had the option of considering abortion. A few days later, she called Preterm to find out more about her options and discovered that abortion was indeed still legal here. Unfortunately, her time to access abortion care within the legal limit was quickly running short. She still needed to get to the clinic, wait the mandatory 24 hours between appointments, receive her state-mandated counseling, and come up with the money to help finance her health care. Confusion around whether abortion is legal shortened her timeline for care, limited her options, and increased her expense. Although the abortion ban never took effect in Ohio, we know it affected people like her.

We serve some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Poverty rates are high; opioid addiction is rampantmaternal and fetal mortality ratesparticularly for people of color, are some of the highest in the world; and immigrantsLGBTQ people, and people living at the intersections of these identities are under daily threats to their lives. Anti-abortion legislation is just one more attack on targeted groups’ ability to thrive.

It has led to all the things you would expect. More lawsuits. More action days. More boots on the ground. When abortion is under attack, we are on the front lines, answering questions, scheduling appointments, assuaging fears, and getting accurate information to the public.

We are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, but despite a restraining order blocking the law from going into effect, confusion about the status of abortion access and legality is still rampant across Ohio. We hope our site can alleviate some of the confusion and give Ohioans a central place to find a clinic, donate to the cause, and get involved with the grassroots organizations working to ensure access across the state.

Together, Ohio’s coalition of reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations and allies are more aligned and stronger than ever. We are proud to be in solidarity with independent abortion providers across the Midwest and South, and to be the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit challenging Ohio’s dangerous and unconstitutional abortion ban. We’re here. We’re open. We’re providing care and fighting back. Abortion is still legal in Ohio.


They’re fearless, defiant, and increasingly angry at the mounting threats in the US to reproductive rights. Here, they reveal why the reasons why they choose to go public

In a frigid evening in January, Dr Katie McHugh welcomed 20 guests into her Indianapolis home and prepared to tell them a secret she had kept for seven years. They had come for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser party; among them were her father and two sisters. As they gathered in her living room, sipping wine, McHugh’s hands shook.

“I was quite nervous, but I wanted to get my secret out as soon as I could,” she says. “I said, ‘Welcome. I’m glad you’re all here. I’m Katie McHugh. I’m an OB-GYN here in Indianapolis, and I’m also an abortion provider.’ My father visibly flinched. Then I stopped to take a breath, and everyone applauded, including my family.”

After the event, to her surprise, her Republican father donated to Planned Parenthood. “He gave me this big hug and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, but I’m worried about you.’”

Until that night, McHugh had told no one but her husband and a few close friends about her part-time work as an abortion provider at one of nine abortion clinics in Indiana. She had never told her conservative-leaning parents or three sisters, despite them being an unusually tight family. Nor had she told her two young children, neighbors, or colleagues at the university where she works as a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology.

“I knew it would cause angst in my community and potentially increase risk to my family,” she says. “I worried that certain relatives would be ashamed of me.”

Despite living in the proverbial closet, McHugh had been receiving hate mail from anti-choicers since April 2016, when she published an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing against new legislative restrictions on abortion in Indiana. (She identified herself in the op-ed as an obstetrician-gynecologist, but did not mention that she herself moonlights as a provider.) Letters admonishing her that “abortion is murder” arrived at her office in Indianapolis. Her Twitter and Facebook inboxes flooded with messages saying she should get raped or murdered.

The harassment she endured after simply advocating for reproductive rights confirmed her belief that it was safer to keep quiet – to let people keep assuming that she “just liked to talk about abortion” but didn’t actually provide it herself.

That changed this past winter, when she was the target of another wave of vitriol on social media. This time, the hate mail came not from strangers, but from people she knew. Outraged that she had posted about reproductive rights in a Facebook group, conservative acquaintances banned her from the group and told her that she didn’t deserve to be a doctor, that they would never refer to her practice again.

“It was the only response I’ve gotten that really upset me,” she says. “I’ve gotten consistent hate mail from my local peers since then.”

Instead of pushing her into deeper silence, this harassment provoked her to come out of the closet.

“I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I’m playing into this game by being quiet and secretive. It makes me feel like I’m ashamed of this work, which I’m not – I’m actually so deeply proud of it.”

McHugh is one of five formerly closeted abortion providers who spoke to the Guardian about their recent decisions to come out about their work. Fed up with mounting threats to reproductive rights – including a pending abortion ban in Alabama that would punish providers with up to 99 years in prison, a push to close the last clinic in Missouri, and a president who tweets about doctors “executing babies” – these providers are finally breaking their silence about the cause to which they have devoted their lives.

Dr Katherine Farris works as an abortion provider at several Planned Parenthood clinics.
 Dr Katherine Farris works as an abortion provider at several Planned Parenthood clinics. Photograph: Jeremy M Lange/The Guardian

Pushed into the closet

Before Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that enshrined a woman’s right to choose, anyone who helped terminate an unwanted pregnancy was a criminal under US law. Criminalization did not put a stop to abortion, of course – estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s range from 200,000 to 1.2m per year – but it did force so-called back-alley providers to perform the procedure under extreme secrecy.

Take, for example, the Jane Collective, an underground network of amateur female abortionists that launched in Chicago in 1965: to avoid being identified, “The Janes”, as they dubbed themselves, often blindfolded their patients. In 1972, police raided one of the collective’s secret apartments and arrested seven members. While shackled in the police van, the Janes fished the index cards bearing their patients’ names from their pockets, tore them up, and swallowed them. Each was charged with up to 110 years in prison. (The charges were dropped after Roe v Wade passed the following year.)

Nearly 50 years later, many providers still feel pressured to operate in secrecy, even when the job “feels like a calling”, as McHugh puts it. In a 2014 study about abortion stigma, 66% of providers reported difficulties surrounding disclosure. Many fear getting shunned by their communities, fired from their day jobs, or targeted by anti-choice protesters.

Death threats, intimidation and harassment have increased drastically at US abortion clinics since Donald Trump’s election, according to the National Abortion Federation. A survey found that, in 2018, nearly half of US abortion clinics experienced at least one incident of severe violence, threats of severe violence and/or severe harassment.

Feeling muzzled can take a psychological toll. Dr Angela Marchin, an OB/GYN in Colorado, says that lying by omission to her conservative, midwestern Catholic family about providing abortions made her feel “almost like a fraud”, as if she were leading a double life.

“I was one person when I was around my friends and coworkers, then would go home and have to be someone different,” Marchin says. “I almost felt ashamed or guilty about it, like I wasn’t standing up for what I believed in. But I didn’t want to be shunned by my family.”

In April, when Texas lawmakers were considering a bill that would allow the death penalty for patients who get abortions, Marchin tweeted her own abortion story. During her first year of medical school, she got pregnant after being unable to pay $70 a month for birth control. Her local Planned Parenthood helped her get a medical abortion. “Now I am an OB/GYN dedicated to helping other women achieve their goals,” she wrote.

The tweet went viral. Since then, she has been building up the courage to come out as a provider to her family during an upcoming family vacation.

“I’m planning to put my foot down and stand up for what I believe in to my family,” she says. “It’s so important for people to understand how normal and common [abortion] is, especially now, and that I’m not a bad person for doing this. In fact, I’m doing it out of the goodness of my heart and at great risk to myself.”

Dire consequences for speaking up

While moonlighting at an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City, from 2016 to 2018, Dr Maya Bass used a burner phone to communicate with her patients. Knowing that protesters sometimes go through clinics’ garbage, she had all her paychecks and other mail from the clinic sent to her parents’ house in Philadelphia.

“I didn’t want anyone to know my address,” Bass says.

She set up security cameras at her house, even though her neighborhood had “zero crime”. When she gave guest lectures to Oklahoma University’s Medical Students for Choice group, on such subjects as “how to use a manual vacuum aspirator”, she insisted that the lectures be listed as “taught by an anonymous doctor”.

Her car was listed in the name of her husband, a member of the military, so that if a protester at the clinic looked up her license plate, “they’d get this military guy”, she says. “The backup plan was that if any protesters ever came to our home, we’d move to the military base and be protected by giant tanks.”

It wasn’t just the wrath of anti-choice activists that concerned Bass. She also worried that disclosing her part-time involvement in abortion care would get her fired from her full-time job as a family medicine physician.

“The CEO of the health center where I worked was extremely anti-choice,” she says. “I was nervous that if he found out, I wouldn’t be able to do family medicine any more.”

“The problem of employment discrimination is enormous for doctors who want to perform abortion healthcare,” says Noel Leon, a lawyer at the National Women’s Law Center. “I have talked to dozens of clinicians who have faced – or who fear – dire employment consequences when they have disclosed their commitment to abortion access.”

Dr Rathika Nimalendran works as an abortion provider at a health clinic in North Carolina.
 Dr Rathika Nimalendran works as an abortion provider at a health clinic in North Carolina. Photograph: Jeremy M Lange/The Guardian

A 2018 report authored by Leon, who provides legal support to doctors who perform abortions, offers the disconcerting example of a doctor who was threatened by a senior partner of a private OB/GYN practice during a job interview: “If I ever find out you did elective abortion any time in your professional life, you’ll never practice medicine in [this state] again. Do you understand that?” the partner said.

Such discrimination is particularly harsh at Catholic-owned or affiliated hospitals, which make up 14.5% of all acute-care hospitals in the United States, and which often explicitly prohibit their doctors from performing abortions in their off hours, even at unaffiliated clinics. Since many abortion clinics are staffed primarily by part-time employees, these restrictions can lead to staffing shortages where providers are needed most. In some cases, a doctor’s ability to keep helping women is contingent on whether she keeps quiet about it.

Dr Rathika Nimalendran, who drives by a giant Confederate flag every morning on her way to her full-time job at a family health clinic in rural North Carolina, keeps the fact that she moonlights as an abortion provider a secret from her mostly conservative Christian patients.

“I feel like I’m two different people,” she says. “But I grew up in a south Asian family in Florida, so I’m used to the idea of code-switching. As a woman of color, I feel doubly careful. A few of my patients have made comments about my gender and ethnicity.” Sharing her commitment to abortion access could invite further scrutiny and jeopardize her work at the family clinic.

Last September, tired of staying quiet, Bass moved from Oklahoma back to her hometown of Philadelphia, where she talks openly with friends and family about working in abortion care.

“I’m still in the process of coming out,” she says. “Coming out on social media is the hardest. I keep wondering, if I tweet about reproductive health, is this going to bring protesters to my house?”

Women protest in New York to demand safe legal abortions for all women.
 Women protest in New York to demand abortion rights for all women. Photograph: Peter Keegan/Getty Images

‘It sucks to have to hide what I do’

Dr Katherine Farris, a self-described former “pro-life, Catholic girl” and family physician in North Carolina, long feared that coming out as an abortion provider could impact not just her own career, but her husband’s, too.

When she first decided to become a provider, after reading The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, written by a former member of the covert collective, she never expected she would have to maintain some of the secrecy under which the Janes operated. But then she moved to a town in “the buckle of the Bible Belt in the south”, she says. “We had a lot of anxiety about the impact it could have on my husband’s job if it became known that I’m a provider.”

She has now lived for 16 years hiding her part-time work as a provider at Planned Parenthood from all but her immediate family and a handful of friends. When people ask what she does, she answers vaguely, saying she works at a “multistate women’s healthcare organization”.

“I truly believe I’m making the world a better place by helping women have bodily autonomy,” she says. “It sucks to have to hide what I do.”

She came out to her closest friends only after knowing them for years. “I’ve been terrified every time I’ve done it,” she says. “But I’ve been met with nothing but love [and] gratitude, actually, for what I do. If I could be confident that that would be everyone’s response, I would be more open.”

When it comes to anti-abortion acquaintances, she says, “it would never occur to them that I might be a provider, because I’m fun and friendly, and they have this idea that providers are demons”.

Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama state house as the state senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the US.
 Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama state house as the state senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the US. Photograph: Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

As Roe v Wade hangs in the balance, pro-choice advocates now fear a day when all abortion providers are once again forced underground. In the first five months of 2019, 378 abortion restrictions were introduced across the United States. Nine states have now passed laws to outlaw abortion or forbid it past a certain point in pregnancy.

So many women in the US lack access to reproductive healthcare that secret networks around the country are now emulating the Janes, discreetly training women to provide safe abortions outside of the law and the medical establishment, hoarding misoprostol and building manual vacuum aspirators from mason jars in their bedrooms.

“We can never go back to that,” Farris says. In recent months, she has taken steps to break her silence, getting involved in more advocacy work: along with McHugh, Nimalendran, Marchin, and Bass, she is a 2019 fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, a not-for-profit organization offering doctors advocacy training such as the Leadership Training Academy.

“My rage is overcoming my anxiety,” Farris says. “This legislation is going to tear women’s lives apart. I can’t stay silent in the face of it. It feels a bit scary to be open. But it’s been exhausting to keep such an important part of my life a secret. I can’t imagine that what will come in the future will be more exhausting.”

Scared, but proud

Since coming out to friends and family at her Planned Parenthood fundraiser, McHugh has started talking about her work “all the time”, she says.

On the 10th anniversary, in June, of Dr George Tiller’s murder at the hands of an anti-abortion extremist in his church, she tweeted: “Being an #abortion provider can be scary, intimidating, and challenging but it is some of the most fulfilling work I do. This would not be possible if not for the work of the giants before me, like Dr. Tiller. #AbortionIsHealthcare and I am #Proud2Provide.”

After this announcement, many of her local colleagues vowed to stop referring patients to her family medicine practice. Extended family members stopped talking to her and her husband. She was not surprised.

“I’m not going to change their minds and they’re not going to change mine,” she says. “I’m okay with that. It’s their choice. Turns out I’m all about choice.”


Obria focuses on a “couple” — as opposed to a woman as an individual — and “the benefits of commitment and marriage.”

The Trump White House wants to roll back Obama’s birth control mandate and defund Planned Parenthood. But women’s health advocates are bracing for a fight. (Video: Luis Velarde/Photo: Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)

Thousands of California women and teenagers seeking free or discounted reproductive health services through a federal program could find themselves in clinics that focus on abstinence and natural family planning as methods of birth control.

Operated by the California-based Obria Group, the health centers appear to be modeled after faith-based crisis pregnancy centers, designed to persuade women to continue their pregnancies, but with a twist: Obria’s clinics encourage young clients to use online apps, developed with funding from religious conservatives, to “move them away from sexual risks as their only option in life, to an option of self-control.”

Antiabortion advocates gather outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis in June. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Some Obria centers participating in the federal family planning program, known as Title X, also offer “abortion pill reversal,” which involves administering large doses of the hormone progesterone to patients who have taken the first dose of the two-pill medication abortion regimen, according to the group’s site. The procedure, which the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is not supported by scientific research, is not reimbursable under Title X.

Chief executive Kathleen Eaton Bravo is pitching Obria as a “pro-life” alternative to Planned Parenthood — by far the largest recipient of family planning funds under the $287 million program, which offers services to about 4 million low-income women and girls. Planned Parenthood is at risk of losing that funding because of a recent rule change that requires abortions to be delivered in separate places than family-planning services and bars directive counseling that mentions abortion.

Bravo, in an emailed response to questions, said that many women “want the opportunity to visit a professional, comprehensive health care facility — not an abortion clinic — for their health care needs.”

“Obria gives women that choice,” she said.

Political analysts have called the Obria grant a game-changer for the antiabortion movement that may lead to similar clinics being eligible for more types of federal grants, reimbursement from Medicaid and participation in private insurance plans.

The Department of Health and Human Services granted $1.7 million to Obria in fiscal year 2019, with the possibility of renewal for two more years for a total of $5.1 million — part of a larger effort by religious conservatives in the Trump administration to transform women’s health-care services by encouraging alternatives to abortion and hormonal birth control, such as birth control pills, and promoting traditional marriage.

Historically, Title X grants have been used to fund clinics that provide a broad range of family planning options, including condoms, birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Although taxpayer funds could not be used for abortion services, the clinics have provided referrals and counseling about continuing a pregnancy as well as terminating one. Crisis pregnancy centers — which have been criticized by mainstream medical groups as deceptive because of their opposition to birth control and abortion — did not apply for funds or were rejected by past administrations.

When the award to Obria was announced in March, women’s rights groups expressed concern. Obria’s application was initiated when Health and Human Services official Valerie Huber, a former abstinence advocate, was in charge of steering the family planning funds, and it was approved by Diane Foley, who previously led crisis pregnancy centers in Colorado. Foley took over from Huber as deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Population Affairs in May 2018.

Few details were available, and Obria officials declined to elaborate to media organizations, but documents obtained by the Campaign for Accountability under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with The Washington Post detail Obria’s vision for the health centers.

The first set of 21 Title X Obria-branded centers, which will include brick-and-mortar operations as well as telemedicine and mobile clinics, are scattered across Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Santa Clara counties and serve about 36,000 girls and women over the three years of the grant. They offer reproductive health screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, HIV and cancer, as well as pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and prenatal education and care.

Obria clinics will not offer hormonal birth control or sterilization but will operate in conjunction with more traditional health clinics that do provide such options. Those partners include Share Our Selves (SOS), which provides primary and specialty care in Orange County, and Hurtt Family clinics, which focus on the uninsured and homeless in Southern California. Officials for SOS and Hurtt declined to comment. The setup allows Obria to fulfill a federal checklist of services through referrals to other clinics listed as part of its project.

Alice Huling, an attorney with the Campaign for Accountability, said allowing Obria to participate in the federal family planning program could mislead patients.

“This means women will be going to a clinic to talk about options and not know that they are at a place driven by a very narrow ideological view on birth control and reproductive health,” Huling said.

A review of Obria’s website shows that it promotes services such as “pregnancy decision consultations,” without disclosing its opposition to abortion. The section of the site offering information about abortionmentions the procedure’s side effects and risks, without noting that it is a safe and common procedure.

HHS officials said women who are seeking family planning services can access profiles of each center through the program’s online clinic locator tool. “It will be clear what services are offered at each site,” a spokesperson said.

Obria is made up of 50 clinics, only about half of which are participating in Title X, and its goal is to have more than 200 sites by 2022. It recently rebranded itself as “the fresh new face of comprehensive care.”

Despite not offering forms of hormonal birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Obria’s health-care providers would take part in birth control “discussions” and “emphasize the value of abstinence,” according to Obria’s Title X application to HHS.

“Contraceptive education and counseling, especially for adolescents, will emphasize that avoiding sex is the only 100-percent effective method to prevent pregnancy and STDs,” the company wrote.

“Fertility awareness” is another key part of Obria’s approach. The company wrote that patients would have the option of using a program/app called FEMM to monitor their hormonal cycles to either decrease the risk of pregnancy or achieve it.

FEMM, which the nonprofit says has been downloaded more than 400,000 times in 161 countries, provides a data-driven approach to help women track their period, ovulation, body temperature, medications and other physical or emotional symptoms to find patterns to help avoid or achieve pregnancy. It has been promoted internationally by the Catholic Church’s diplomatic arm, according to a report in the Guardian, and tax filings show it was funded by a charity, the Chiaroscuro Foundation, backed by Sean Fieler, a New York hedge fund manager who opposes abortion.

FEMM chief executive Anna Halpine said in an emailed statement that the company “is committed to informed choice for all women.”

“A growing number of women, in both developed and developing nations, prefer to be the primary agents of their health care choices and actions,” she wrote. “They choose to know and understand how their body works before making their own reproductive health decisions.”

Although many health professionals agree that educating women about their hormonal cycles is a worthy objective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said this approach, similar to what’s known as the “rhythm method,” is not as effective as other forms of birth control, having a failure rate of 24 percent. It also does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Another controversial aspect of the app has been its tips and advice, such as its emphasis on the side effects of hormonal birth control.

Throughout its Title X application, Obria emphasizes the importance of a “couple” — as opposed to the needs and desires of the woman as an individual — and “the benefits of commitment and marriage.”

It describes how the clinics would encourage patients to develop a “reproductive life plan” that takes into account “partner relationship and communication, long-term family planning in regard to number of children desired and spacing of children.”

Obria also plans to use another popular program funded by religious conservatives to counsel adolescents about “sexual risk avoidance,” according to its application. Known as Relationship Education and Leadership (REAL) Essentials, it was written by abstinence advocate Joneen Mackenzie, a registered nurse and former Air Force lieutenant in Denver.

Obria described in its Title X application how the REAL curriculum, combined with a telehealth app, could provide real-time coaching for teens: “Obria can have a nurse or health educator right there with them, in any location, and move them away from sexual risks as their only option in life, to an option of self-control.”

The Title X program is in a time of major transition. In February, the Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood — which serves about 41 percent of the program’s clients nationwide — when it barred groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals from federal funding. The most controversial of the provisions — called a “gag rule” by critics — prohibits providers from providing “directive” counseling for abortions. Conservative groups, such as the Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council, celebrated the decision. A number of state governors, medical groups and Planned Parenthood took to the courts and sued in cases that are still pending.

HHS officials announced on July 15 that they would start immediately withholding funds from clinics that do not comply with several provisions. A two-page guidance released late Saturday extended that deadline to Sept. 18. Clinics have until March 4 to ensure that operations related to abortion are physically separate from non-abortion services.


Though CNN’s moderators failed to address reproductive rights during this round of debates, some candidates did bring it up on their own.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) challenged former Vice President Joe Biden’s shifting positions on the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care—a policy that disproportionately harms people of color and those with low incomes.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Debate moderators failed to ask a single question about reproductive rights, including abortion, during the second round of Democratic presidential debates. The oversight concerned advocates, who say the issue is especially critical in the current political environment.

“Voters need to know what candidates will do to protect their reproductive health care—yet tonight all they got was deafening silence,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement. “We’re talking about our health, our rights, our futures. We can, and we must, do better.”

“Voters deserve better from these primary debates. Right now, 25 million women in America are one Supreme Court case away from losing the right to access abortion—even though 77 percent of Americans support access to safe, legal abortion,” McGill Johnson said. “The Trump administration has spent the past three years pushing policy after policy to take away access to birth control, to allow discrimination in health care, to block patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood. This is more than a health care issue. It is a matter of economic justice, racial justice, and reproductive freedom.”

“Over the course of two Democratic debates with significant time spent discussing health care, both the moderators and candidates failed to focus on access to abortion and other reproductive health services,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) Action Fund, in a statement. “With reproductive freedom under attack and millions of people waking up each day wondering whether they will be able to access essential health services they need, including abortion care, we urge candidates and moderators to address this crisis.”

Though CNN’s moderators didn’t address reproductive rights, some candidates did bring the topic up on their own. Most notably, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) challenged former Vice President Joe Biden’s shifting positions on the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care—a policy that disproportionately harms people of color and those with low incomes.

“You made the decision for years to withhold resources to poor women to have access to reproductive health care,” Harris said, referring to the anti-choice restriction. “Do you now say that you have evolved and that you regret that?”

Biden replied that everybody on stage who had served in the U.S. Congress had voted for Hyde Amendment at some point, referencing Democrats—Harris among them—who have voted in favor of including Hyde language in government spending bills in order to pass them with Republican support.

“Once I wrote the legislation making sure that every single woman would in fact have an opportunity to have health care paid for by the federal government, everyone, then that could no longer stand,” said Biden.

As Li Zhou interpreted this statement for Vox, Biden “acknowledged that his health care proposal wouldn’t be able to work if abortions and other reproductive health care were not included in it since it relies on federal money.”

Biden faced scrutiny in June for a series of flip-flops on his position on the Hyde Amendment. Ultimately, Biden announced that he opposed the policy, telling attendees at a Democratic National Committee gala that “if I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” according to the New York Times. When the former vice president released his health-care platform in July, it included a call to end the restriction.

“This brief exchange underscored the critical importance of hearing from the candidates on how they will defend Roe v. Wade and protect reproductive freedom,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “It also highlighted the immense pressure all the candidates face from the millions of voters who know that abortion rights are in jeopardy and are demanding real leadership.”

Ronald Newman, national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), lauded the discussion around Hyde that took place on the debate stage Wednesday evening.

“There’s a reason our volunteers have been pushing candidates for months on this issue. For more than four decades, Hyde and other bans on abortion coverage by government insurance programs have pushed abortion care out of reach for low-income people, particularly poor women of color,” Newman told Rewire.News. The ACLU has sought to engage candidates on the issue as part of its Rights For All Campaign. “Abortion is a constitutional right, and access to it shouldn’t depend on where you live or how much money you make. We’re glad to see it receive time on the debate stage last night and plan to ensure it continues to be an issue in this campaign,” Newman said.

Following years of advocacy from women of color, permanently eliminating the Hyde Amendment has gained unprecedented support among Democrats. Democratic presidential candidates have overwhelmingly condemned the ban, and the party included ending the restriction in its official platform in 2016.


AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — When Calleena Boyce learned her birth control was going to cost $147.75, she didn’t exactly say, out loud, that she couldn’t afford it.

The 18-year-old, tanned from long days working at a local day care, had sat and listened patiently as a nurse practitioner at a small health care clinic in the middle of northern, rural Maine, walked her through her options for birth control.

The nurse practitioner eased Boyce’s fears about IUDs — they can shift, but very rarely do. She warned her that estrogen-heavy contraception would likely magnify Boyce’s migraines. By the end, Boyce decided she wanted a Nexplanon implant, the most effective form of birth control.

There was just one issue: Boyce didn’t have insurance.

The $147.50 was just the down payment — Boyce would have to pay a total of $283.50. And that’s the discounted version. Without the sliding fee scale at the Presque Isle Family Planning clinic, the implant would cost Boyce $1,050.

Boyce could apply for MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, but she likely wouldn’t get approved for at least three months. What if, the nurse practitioner suggested, Boyce instead used her second choice of birth control?

“In a perfect world, we’d all abstain from sex, whatever. But that’s not gonna happen.”

A shot of the slightly less-effective Depo-Provera would cost her just $16.20 at the Presque Isle clinic, and it would protect her until she started college near Bangor, Maine, this fall. Once her university gave her coverage, Boyce could go to Bangor Family Planning, a sister clinic of Presque Isle, and get the Nexplanon implanted there.

“I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have come here,” Boyce told VICE News in an interview. “At least with my circle of friends, there’s a lot of lower-income families. This is where we get our free birth control and our free condoms, and stuff like that. The stuff we need. I mean, in a perfect world, we’d all abstain from sex, whatever. But that’s not gonna happen.”

After Boyce left, the nurse practitioner, Christina Theriault, said many of her appointments turn into a conversation about cost. “Here we are again, playing this game of ‘What can you afford?’” she said. “Which is not the way medicine should ever be practiced, but it is.”

It’s about to get harder. In mid-July, the Trump administration announced that providers who receive funding from the federal family planning program known as Title X would no longer be allowed to refer people for abortions. Within a day, Theriault’s employer, Maine Family Planning, became the first Title X grant recipient to announce it would rather withdraw from the program than comply with what it sees as a “gag rule” on providers’ ability to refer for a legal procedure.


Cassidy handles the front desk at both clinics in Presque Isle and Fort Kent, where she helps patients navigate their insurance (or lack thereof). She asked to be identified by her first name only. (Photo: Carter Sherman/VICE News)

Title X is the only federal program dedicated to funding family planning services, like STI tests, cancer screenings, and birth control, and about 4 million low-income people rely on it each year. Leaving it will mean that Maine Family Planning will lose $1.8 million annually, or roughly 30% of its total funding, which it doles out to 47 clinics across the state serving about 23,000 people.

Providers across the country are now weighing whether to stay and comply with the rule or forfeit millions and risk closing clinics. After Maine Family Planning’s announcement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that his state would stop taking money from Title X too; the governors of Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii have made similar pledges in the past.

Planned Parenthood, which serves about 40% of all Title X patients nationwide, has also announced that it has stopped using the program’s money. Instead, the massive reproductive rights organization is now relying on limited emergency funds.

If these changes to Title X lead clinics to close, rural communities with few providers will be among the hardest-hit. The people of Aroostook County, where Maine Family Planning operates three clinics, could be forced to drive hours to find cheap family planning services. Or, potentially, they may simply choose to go without.

Evelyn Kieltyka, senior vice president of program services for Maine Family Planning, told VICE News that not taking the money is preferable to the alternative: not being able to tell patients where they can go to end a pregnancy.

“As a provider, it’s unthinkable that you can’t actually give your patient what you want,” she said. “And it’s incredibly safe, legal, available — and yet I can’t tell you where to go. There’s no other health care service where that kind of restriction is placed.”


Tammy Pelletier, 44, has gotten birth control from the Presque Isle Planning clinic for years. (Photo: Carter Sherman/VICE News)

Trump officials and anti-abortion advocates say that the changes to Title X are necessary to ensure that no taxpayer money “intermingles” with abortion services or “promotes” abortion. The new rules also stipulate the clinics financially and physically separate any services that involve abortion from those that don’t, though the latter requirement will not go into effect until next year.

“Planned Parenthood and others want to use public Title X funds to support their abortion services in blatant disregard of the fact that Congress explicitly and statutorily excluded abortion from the scope of Title X projects and funding,” Catherine Glenn Foster, president of the powerful anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, said in a statement.

It is already illegal to use federal funding to pay for abortions, except in the case of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life. Many of the almost 4,000 clinics that rely on Title X don’t provide abortions at all.

Proponents of the Title X changes also argue that federally qualified health centers, which receive government funding to care for underserved communities, can step in to fill the void left by Planned Parenthood. But a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that half of health centers say their staffers could only handle about a 10-24% increase in their patient loads, and clinics that don’t take Title X funding are also less likely to offer a full range of birth control options.


Patients at Fort Kent Family Planning can grab some free condoms before they leave. (Photo: Carter Sherman)

To compensate for the end of Title X, Maine Family Planning is trying to raise private donations and find other public funding sources. Deirdre Fulton-McDonough, director of communications for the non-profit, declined to say how long that money may last.

“Our reserves are not yet exhausted,” Fulton-McDonough said in an email. “Suffice to say, this is a short-term solution that we are actively seeking to resolve. For now, however, we are committed to not closing clinics and to preserving the network as it has been.”

The remote towns of Presque Isle and Fort Kent, which lie about an hour apart, both have Maine Family Planning clinics. In addition to providing Nexplanon, IUDs, and other family planning care, the clinics do offer medication abortion, enabled by telemedicine.

Only about 9,000 people live in Presque Isle, and another 4,000 in Fort Kent. (Both Presque Isle and Fort Kent are almost exclusively white, according to census records.) Ask people to describe the towns, and the same words will keep popping up. They’re “old-school.” They’re “traditional.” And they’re certainly “conservative”: Trump won Aroostook County in 2016 with 55% of the vote.

“People don’t talk about birth control, people don’t talk about sex,” said Rebecca, a 23-year-old nursing student who studies at the University of Maine’s Fort Kent campus. She started visiting Maine Family Planning for birth control after having an abortion, and asked to be identified only by her middle name. “It’s kind of stepped back in time.”

The towns’ residents must frequently drive hours to get what much of the rest of the country takes for granted. Hours from the nearest highway, Fort Kent is a two-stoplight town along the border of Canada and the St. John River. Its tallest building is the Catholic church’s gleaming white spire.

While Presque Isle has a mall, it’s a ghost town. On a recent Tuesday morning, a cluster of seniors played bingo in the remains of the food court, while, at the other end of the mall, so many stores had shuttered that management hadn’t even bothered to turn on most of the lights.


About a tenth of the patients at Presque Isle Family Planning relied on Title X in fiscal year 2019. (Photo: Carter Sherman/VICE News)

About a fifth of the patients who visited Fort Kent’s family planning clinic in fiscal year 2019 relied on Title X to help pay for their care; over that time period, about 10 percent of Presque Isle patients did the same.

“We have a lot of people who do things like hairdressing on the side, or cleaning houses, or working at the mill, or working at gas stations. They don’t make enough to get any coverage, and fall under the poverty level, even with working on the side,” said Theriault, who lives in Fort Kent with her husband and two young sons, but serves as the nurse practitioner at both clinics. “A lot of our patients come to see us and don’t have primary care providers, because they can’t afford it. But they can afford to see us.”

Tammy Pelletier started going to the Presque Isle Family Planning clinic six years ago, after she got divorced, lost her job, and was uninsured for nine months. There, she was able to get a shot of Depo-Provera every three months. Sometimes, she’d pay what she could; other times, she didn’t pay a dime.

“They were the one agency that was willing to help at the time,” said Pelletier, 44. “I had been going to my regular PCP [primary care provider] for all my woman care, but it wasn’t — when I started going to Maine Family Planning, it became a whole new experience for me.”

Even now that she’s employed, Pelletier says she still finds herself living paycheck to paycheck. A Republican, she’s not sure how the Trump administration’s changes to Title X will impact her vote in 2020.

“That doesn’t mean I agree with every decision Donald Trump makes, and this is a terrible one for women. I don’t agree with it at all, and that’s hard for me to say,” she said. Still, the Democrats running for the presidential nomination, Pelletier went on, “have pie-in-the-sky ideas, and I just don’t know if they know what it takes to accomplish that.”

There’s still some uncertainty over what lies ahead for Title X. Scores of states and reproductive health groups have sued over the rule changes to Title X, and a panel of judges on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit have agreed to consider their challenge. But the 9th Circuit also ruled to let the administration implement the changes while that litigation plays out in the courts.

While Trump officials have said that the changes are in effect, they’re also giving clinics until September to actually prove that they’re complying with them. As long as providers show they’re making “good-faith efforts” to follow the new rules, they won’t face enforcement consequences.

In the meantime, few of Theriault’s patients know just how imperiled their providers are.

“It’s frustrating that for, much as we’re yelling and screaming and saying, ‘This is what’s going on,’ people aren’t hearing it,” Theriault said. “It’s gonna be most frustrating when it’s too late and we go under. And all of our patients are gonna be affected and all of our patients are gonna be screaming. But then it’ll be too late.”

They overwhelmingly support repealing the Hyde Amendment and codifying Roe v. Wade into law.

People hold signs during a protest against recently passed abortion ban bills at the Georgia State Capitol building, on May 21, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

With near-total bans on abortion passing in state after state — and others responding by loosening restrictions on the procedure — the right to terminate a pregnancy is emerging as a major election issue in 2020.

When CNN pollsters asked Iowa Democratic voters earlier this month what issues were must-haves in a presidential candidate, support for abortion rights came out on top, with 79 percent of in-person caucus-goers listing it as crucial. And on Saturday, voters got to hear 20 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates speak on abortion and broader issues of reproductive justice, including sex education and contraceptive access, at a forum convened by Planned Parenthood.

Earlier this year, many candidates condemned the restrictive anti-abortion laws passing in Alabama and elsewhere, but fewer put forth specific policies for defending reproductive rights. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker stood out from the field by issuing detailed plans for safeguarding abortion access.

Since then, more candidates have made policy statements, like expressing support for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would enshrine in federal statute the right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. But Vox wanted to take a holistic look at the abortion rights policies of all 24 candidates in the race. So we asked all of them what their positions were on abortion rights and access, and what policies they’d support to make this a reality.

While not every candidate responded to Vox’s direct inquiry, all 24 have discussed their position on abortion rights in some capacity in the past. For the candidates who did not respond to our request, we examined statements they’ve made in interviews, town halls, and reports in other publications including BuzzFeedThinkProgress and HuffPost.

Some of the candidates offered Vox more details than others about how they’d protect reproductive rights. Booker, for example, said he would create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, while Harris said she’d require states that have passed laws that violate Roe in recent years to obtain DOJ approval for any abortion-related laws they’d like to implement down the line.

But what stands out at this point in the Democratic primary campaign — and was highlighted at the Planned Parenthood forum on Saturday — is the extent to which the candidates have converged around a series of policies on abortion that would have seemed remarkably progressive just five years ago, especially when it comes to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions. As the Republican Party has backed increasingly restrictive laws, the Democratic Party has responded by moving toward increasing and multilayered support for abortion rights.

“What’s going on in this country right now is not just an attack on women,” Warren said at the Planned Parenthood forum on Saturday. “It’s an attack on women who have fewer resources. It’s a class attack on women. It’s a race attack.”

Her words encapsulated what has, at this point, become a shared position among virtually the entire Democratic field: that abortion should be not just legal but affordable and accessible for all Americans.

Many Democrats have converged on a set of policies to protect abortion rights and access

In our survey, a few commonalities quickly emerged. Many of the candidates we heard from support the following policies:

  • Repealing the Hyde Amendment. The ban on federal funding for abortions bars Medicaid from covering the procedure, putting it out of reach for many low-income Americans. The president doesn’t have the power to repeal Hyde; that authority rests with Congress. But presidential pressure to repeal Hyde still matters, and since Hyde was often treated as politically untouchable before 2016, the fact that so many Democratic candidates now back its repeal is a sign of the times.
  • Codifying Roe v. Wade in statute. In May, Sens. Gillibrand, Warren, and others put forth plans calling on Congress to make the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade a part of federal law, so that it would stand even if Roe is overturned. Such a law could be challenged in court in the event of a repeal of Roe, but candidates see it as an important bulwark against the loss of reproductive rights. Like a repeal of Hyde, this is something only Congress could accomplish.
  • Repealing the domestic and global gag rules. Like every Republican president since Reagan, President Trump reinstated the global gag rule, which bars organizations abroad that take American aid from providing or discussing abortion (Trump expanded this ruleto apply to a larger pool of money than in previous administrations). He then went further by imposing a domestic gag rule, barring organizations in the United States that receive federal family planning funds under Title X from providing or referring patients for the procedure. Unlike repealing Hyde or codifying Roe, this is something a president could do without help from Congress. It’s also a reminder that the Trump administration has taken a number of actions to restrict both abortion and contraceptive access; the next president would have the power to roll any of these back.
  • Roe litmus test for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. Several candidates (though not all) have said they would only appoint judges who support Roe v. Wade to the federal court system. Trump made the opposite promise in 2016 and has made good on it by appointing Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as well as judges seen as anti-abortion to lower federal courts; it’s largely because of his appointments that Roe is at risk today. It’s unclear how many opportunities the next president will have to make a Supreme Court appointment, but lower federal judges also hold great influence over the interpretation of abortion law. And, like repealing the gag rules, this is an action the president can take (though judges do require congressional approval).

Given how similar the candidates’ response are overall, we spoke with NARAL, an advocacy group that’s fought for stronger protections for abortion rights, about how to best differentiate them.

The key thing to look out for, according to NARAL vice president of communications Adrienne Kimmell, is more specifics. Since repealing Hyde and codifying Roe have become baseline positions, candidates who are able to offer more details in their proposals suggest that they’ve engaged with the issue further.

“Voters should look for candidates who step up with concrete plans to protect access to care and guarantee reproductive freedom for every American,” she says. “We’re heartened to see that candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand are already leading the way by announcing specific plans laying out how they would defend reproductive freedom.”

Some of the Democratic candidates support abortion rights policies beyond the commonly shared positions on Hyde and Roe as well. It’s also important to note that while we chose to focus on abortion for the purpose of this survey, many advocates see that right as part of a larger spectrum of issues, including maternal health (the subject of another survey to be published soon) and equal access to health care for people of all races and genders.

Here’s where the candidates stand on abortion based on responses they shared — and other public statements

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

“I believe in Roe v. Wade,” the senator said at a Fox News town hall in May. “Of course, there are limits there in the third trimester that are very important,” she added. “But I think overall, what we want to do is make sure women have the right to make their own decisions.”

In an interview with Fox News later that month, she said, “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade I would make sure that we are codifying Roe v. Wade into law.” She has also co-sponsored legislation to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

At the Planned Parenthood forum, she added that if elected, she would repeal the domestic and global gag rules. She also mentioned the importance of “making sure that we have judges that follow the law of the land” when it comes to Roe v. Wade.

Andrew Yang

The entrepreneur supports codifying Roerepealing Hyde, and providing “safe and affordable abortion services” to all Americans. “I have the feeling that if men became pregnant instead of women, there would be absolutely no restriction on reproductive rights,” he said in a statement on his campaign website.

At the Planned Parenthood forum, Yang also said that his plan to give all Americans a universal basic income of $1,000 a month would help low-income people afford abortion care.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

“Bernie believes that abortion is a constitutional right for all women,” said Sarah Ford, deputy communications director for the Sanders campaign.

The senator supports a Roe litmus test for judges, and his Medicare-for-all plan would make abortion free to all patients, effectively making the Hyde Amendment moot. “Abortion rights are part of what Medicare-for-all is,” he said at the Planned Parenthood forum.

Sanders is also a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe in federal statute.

Beto O’Rourke

The former Congress member from Texas has released a reproductive rights plan that includes repealing Hyde and guaranteeing private insurance coverage for abortion, codifying Roe in statute, and “appointing judges who respect Roe v. Wade as the settled law of the land.” He also promises, if elected, to reverse the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule. And he says he would direct the Food and Drug Administration to remove “labeling regulations that impose barriers to the use of medication-based abortions.”

“Beto would mobilize the full force of the federal government to protect women’s reproductive rights and access to abortion,” a spokesperson for the campaign told Vox. “Throughout Beto’s career, he has fought to protect women’s access to health care and their right to make their own decisions about their bodies, dating back to his first run for Congress where he took on a Democratic primary opponent who opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

The mayor has supported repealing Hyde. He’s previously called out former Vice President Joe Biden for his prior position backing Hyde. “If you don’t support repeal, you shouldn’t be the Democratic nominee,” de Blasio tweeted.

New York City has also been at the forefront of expanding abortion rights during de Blasio’s tenure. Most recently, it became the first city in the country to directly fund abortions.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

The senator released a reproductive rights plan on May 22, amid the passage of state-level abortion bans around the country. In it, he pledges to work to repeal Hyde and codify Roe in statute, as well as to nominate judges who are supportive of Roe.

In addition, he promises to take a number of executive actions to protect reproductive rights, including ending the domestic and global gag rules, reversing the Trump administration’s guidelines prioritizing abstinence-based programs for federal teen pregnancy prevention funding, and undoing the administration’s rules allowing health care providers to refuse to perform abortions on the basis of their “conscience” or religion.

If elected, the senator says he would also create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, “charged with coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care across my administration  —  addressing all barriers to full reproductive autonomy, such as access to health care, including maternal and infant health, quality, affordable child care, and comprehensive paid family leave.”

At the Planned Parenthood forum, Booker called on men to stand up for reproductive rights. “This is not a woman’s issue,” he said. “Don’t tell me just because you have a wife or a mother or a daughter, that that’s how you relate to this. You have a body.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Warren was among the first candidates to put forth a detailed reproductive rights plan. The plan, released May 17, calls for codifying Roe in statute, repealing Hyde and the domestic gag rule, and guaranteeing private insurance coverage for abortion.

“We must build a future that protects the right of all women to have children, the right of all women to not have children, and the right to bring children up in a safe and healthy environment,” Warren wrote in announcing her plan.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Swalwell is an original co-sponsor of the EACH Woman Act, which would repeal Hyde. He is also a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act and of legislation to repeal the global gag rule. As president, he would support codifying Roe in statute, according to his campaign.

“We will defend Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose at all costs,” Swalwell said in a statement to Vox. “As president, I’ll work with Congress to protect women’s control of their own bodies without government interference and ensure women in every state retain access to abortion care. But I also want to encourage America’s young men to stand up and link arms with women in this fight — we need to be vocal, active allies in defending freedom.”

“I will be a president who negotiates up on this issue rather than down,” he promised at the Planned Parenthood forum.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Inslee supports repealing Hyde and codifying Roe in statute, his campaign said. As governor, he signed Washington state’s Reproductive Parity Act, which guarantees public and private insurance coverage for abortion, and he would support similar legislation as president. He would also repeal both domestic and global gag rules; the attorney general of Washington state was one of several to sue the Trump administration to block the domestic rule.

Joe Biden

After stating in early June that he supports Hyde, Biden changed course and says he now believes the amendment should be repealed. At the Planned Parenthood forum, he said that he had changed positions on Hyde because his health care plan would need to include coverage of abortion.

“I laid out a health care plan that’s going to provide federally funded health care for all women and women who now are denied even Medicare in their home states,” he said. “It became really clear to me that although the Hyde Amendment was designed to try to split the difference here, to make sure women still had access, you can’t have access if everyone’s covered by a federal policy. That’s why at the same time I announced that policy, I announced that I could no longer continue to abide by the Hyde Amendment.”

The former vice president also supports codifying Roe in statute and repealing the global gag rule, according to his campaign. A practicing Catholic, Biden has said he is personally opposed to abortion. But, he said at a vice presidential debate in 2012, “I just refuse to impose that on others.”

John Delaney

Delaney supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, according to his campaign. His universal health care plan, BetterCare, would cover reproductive health care, including abortions.

John Hickenlooper

The former Colorado governor supports repealing Hyde and increasing and protecting Title X family planning funding. “Governor Hickenlooper always has been a strong advocate of a woman’s right to choose,” a spokesperson for his campaign said. “He believes that all decisions should be made between a woman, her faith, and her doctor.”

Julián Castro

The former housing and urban development secretary has committed to nominating judges and Cabinet members who are “pro-choice.” Additionally, he backs repealing Hyde and codifying Roe v. Wade. “All women should have access to reproductive care, regardless of their income or the state they live in,” he previously tweeted.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Harris is among the Democrats who’s offered a more detailed plan on abortion rights that seeks to curb state laws attempting to infringe on them. Under Harris’s proposal, which is modeled after the Voting Rights Act, states whose abortion-related laws have recently been struck down by courts for violating Roe would have to obtain federal approval from the Justice Department before they’re able to implement any new abortion laws.

“As president, I will stop dangerous state laws restricting reproductive rights before they go into effect,” Harris said in a statement. She also backs undoing Hyde, making Roe v. Wade law, and appointing judges that support abortion rights.

At the Planned Parenthood forum, Harris pledged “to do the work on the defense, and to fight, but also work on the offense” when it comes to abortion rights.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Gillibrand has made gender equity and reproductive rights a central piece of her campaign and is considered a leader on the issue. She was the first 2020 Democrat to commit to appointing judges that support Roe, and in the wake of state laws restricting abortion access laid out a wide-ranging plan to protect abortion rights.

In addition to repealing Hyde and codifying Roe, Gillibrand supports undoing the gag rule the Trump administration has imposed. She would also establish a new funding stream in order to ensure that every state has a reproductive health center.

“We must come together to declare, loud and clear, that reproductive rights are human rights. They are civil rights. And they are nonnegotiable,” she wrote in a Medium post.

Marianne Williamson

The author and spiritual adviser, who has described herself as “one hundred percent pro-choice,” backs codifying Roe and repealing the Hyde Amendment.

“I believe the decision of whether or not to have an abortion lies solely with the pregnant woman, according to the dictates of her conscience and in communion with the God of her understanding,” she notes on her campaign website. “I do not feel the government has an appropriate right to deny or restrict that decision.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Bennet supports “enshrining Roe v. Wade into federal statute, preempting states that try to interfere with women’s health rights, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and standing up against other efforts to undermine access to necessary care,” according to a campaign spokesperson.

“Women’s reproductive rights are under assault all over the United States. Women’s health care is under assault all over the United States,” he said during a CNN town hall earlier this year. Bennet has also said he would only appoint judges that back Roe.

Mike Gravel

Former Alaska Sen. Gravel, a candidate who’s notably in the race in order to prompt debate, has an expansive and unique abortion rights agenda. Gravel’s landmark provision would tie an individual’s ability to become a specialized physician with a commitment to providing abortions.

“Our signature point on abortion access is mandating the ability and willingness to provide an abortion as a condition of obstetrician licensing,” according to a campaign spokesperson. “In addition, we support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to an abortion, as well as lawmaking through the People’s legislature, a fourth branch of government that Mike Gravel supports setting up that would allow direct lawmaking by the American people.”

Gravel also backs repealing Hyde and codifying Roe into law.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg supports repealing Hyde, codifying Roe into law, and appointing judicial nominees who would support Roe. “The mayor is pro-choice and trusts women to make their own health care decisions. He also recognizes the harm in having men legislate women’s bodies,” said a campaign spokesperson.

Buttigieg has previously called for more men to speak out about abortion. “I think it’s particularly important from a political stance for men to stand up,” he said during a campaign event earlier this year, according to HuffPost.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

Moulton backs the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and enshrining Roe in federal law. He’s said undoing Hyde ensures that all women have the funding they need for health care and compared it to the funding the military needs.

“It’s sort of like saying, you know, I support the troops but don’t want to pay them,” Moulton said of Hyde in a CNN interview. “That’s the analogy here, and I think it’s wrong.”

Moulton has also said he will exclusively appoint judges that support Roe and added that he backs Harris’s proposal to require DOJ review of certain state laws.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

Bullock supports ending Hyde, codifying Roe, and strengthening Title X funding, which provides money for family planning and preventive health care clinics (though the domestic gag rule currently restricts it to institutions that do not provide abortions).

“As governor, Bullock has stopped every single effort to restrict reproductive health care, and made Title X funding permanent so it would no longer be a political football,” a campaign spokesperson said.

“It’s not what I think, it’s what does an individual woman need to do with her body and with her health care,” Bullock recently told CNN.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)

Ryan supports codifying Roe and repealing Hyde. He had previously expressed opposition to abortion rights but explained in a 2015 editorial why he’s changed his position.

“I came in as a Catholic school kid from northeast Ohio who didn’t think a whole lot about the issue and went into Congress pro-life,” Ryan told BuzzFeed. “My opinion changed that there should not be anyone from the federal government between a woman and her doctor.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)

Gabbard is supportive of abortion rights, according to a campaign spokesperson, and would back using federal money to provide abortions. Gabbard has previously been anti-abortion but has since changed her position.

Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam

Messam supports codifying Roe and using federal money to provide abortion services. He emphasized, in an interview with WBUR, that he sees Roe as “settled law.”

“I think when a woman is faced with a tough decision to abort a pregnancy, it’s tough enough by itself to have to make such a personal decision — a tough decision to make — and currently right now in our country this issue has been demagogued, and I think that primarily us men are making the decisions in the laws,” he said.


With health care under fire across the U.S., it can be difficult to parse the negative feelings you’re having about the potential revocation of your bodily autonomy. I’ve picked out 15 nonfiction books about reproductive rights you should be reading right now, because conservatives are inching closer to overturning Roe v. Wade everyday.

Last week, the Trump administration pushed through a plan to revoke Title X family planning program funding from clinics that perform or refer patients for abortions. Title X funding helps to ensure that poor and low-income people with vaginas have access to otherwise expensive birth control, STI screenings, and examinations. In its nearly 50-year-long history, Title X has never funded abortion procedures, but now clinics and other providers can be prevented from providing many other types of life-saving care if they mention abortion as an option to pregnant people.

It’s unclear whether the new Title X regulations make exceptions for rape, incest, or other extenuating circumstances that are typically exempt from abortion restrictions. Although the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it “[r]equires referrals for those conditions deemed medically necessary,” the portion of the document that focuses on victims of “child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, intimate partner violence, and trafficking” makes no mention of pregnancy termination at all.

It’s clear that these new regulations aren’t taking the health care needs of poor and low-income people with vaginas into account. Additionally, because 75 percent of patients at organizations receiving Title X funding in 2017 were people of color, there is an added layer of racism to the Trump administration’s new policy. And because 59 percent of people who receive abortions in the U.S. are parents already, the new restrictions on Title X funding put children’s well-being at risk. So much for being “pro-family,” amirite?

Several organizations have already taken legal action against what Planned Parenthood Federation of America V.P. of Government Relations & Public Policy Jacqueline Ayers called the “unethical and dangerous” requirement that “health care providers to withhold important information from patients,” but no one can be sure of whether or not their efforts will succeed. Additionally, because of legal challenges against the unconstitutional abortion restrictions and bans that have cropped up around the country over the last two years, Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that secured our right to abortion care, could soon be overturned.

In short, there’s no better, more important time to read these nonfiction books about your reproductive rights.

‘How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump’ by Laura Briggs

In How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics, Laura Briggs traces the correlation between racist political jabs at families of color and what publisher’s copy calls “the government and business disinvestment in families.” As rising costs of living leave the federal minimum wage behind, pushing more and more families below the poverty line, Briggs argues that every political decision made today impacts reproductive justice.

‘Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement’ by Sarah Erdreich

Published at the start of President Barack Obama’s second term in office, Sarah Erdreich’s Generation Roe envisions the new challenges that reproductive rights advocates must face in order to push abortion out from the shadows of social taboo, exposing it for the common, life-saving reality it is.

‘The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade’ by Ann Fessler

Written by a woman who was adopted from her teenage mother in the mid-20th century, The Girls Who Went Away offers an eye-opening look at the tragedies suffered by unwed parents in the decades before Roe v. Wade. Ann Fessler’s book is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one, if you want to fully understand what a return to “family values” means for the U.S.

‘Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women’s Reproduction in America’ by Jeanne Flavin

Written by Fordham University Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Jeanne Flavin, Our Bodies Our Crimes examines the myriad ways in which people of color are punished for having children — and rewarded for not reproducing. The right to be pregnant and the right to not be pregnant are of equal importance, and this book is a fantastic and depressing primer on an often-overlooked aspect of reproductive justice.

‘Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation’ by David A. Grimes and Linda G. Brandon

Written by abortion-performing doctor and former Chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Every Third Woman in America examines the social history of abortion, including how the U.S. changed in the wake of Roe v. Wade, and what those of us who have grown up in a world of legal abortion should know.

‘Reproductive Justice: The Politics of Health Care for Native American Women’ by Barbara Gurr

Focusing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Barbara Gurr’s Reproductive Justice takes readers inside Native American women’s struggle to access adequate reproductive care, including prenatal treatment, through the Indian Health Service.

‘The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service’ by Laura Kaplan

In operation for years before Roe v. Wade, the Jane Collective was an underground network of people who conspired to secure safe abortion and low-cost health screenings for thousands of pregnant individuals in Chicago, accepting $100 or whatever women could pay. Laura Kaplan tells all about Jane’s inspiring history in this fantastic book.

‘Handbook for a Post-Roe America’ by Robin Marty

Robin Marty’s Handbook for a Post-Roe America is a necessary primer on organizing, fundraising, and avoiding legal trouble when and if you must break an unconstitutional law.

‘How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Sex, Virtue, and the Way We Live Now’ by Cristina Page

If you’re on the fence about abortion’s impact on and importance to the well-being of this country, look no further than Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. This handy microhistory, written during the second Bush administration, exposes how increased family planning choices have improved the quality of life for millions of people across the U.S.

‘Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice’ by Dr. Willie Parker

Believe it or not, in the years before Roe v. Wade, many religious leaders and activists took it upon themselves to help people secure safe abortions. In Life’s Work, Christian abortion provider Willie Parker lays out a religious and moral defense of abortion and reproductive freedom.

‘Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty’ by Dorothy Roberts

A black feminist anthem and a rallying cry to civil rights activists who have gone soft, Dorothy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body exposes how recent legislation has restricted the reproductive rights of black people, particularly those who live in poverty. No discussion of reproductive or racial justice is complete without this book.

‘Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice’ by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta J. Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez

One of the criticisms lobbied at the Jane Collective was the overwhelming whiteness of its staff, who served a largely black clientele. In Undivided Rights, authors Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta J. Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez unearth the history of women of color’s reproductive organization and activism, through archival research and interviews.

‘Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade’ by Rickie Solinger

Focusing on the two decades that followed World War II, Rickie Solinger’s Wake Up Little Susie dissects the double standard that emerged toward unwed pregnancy in the postwar period. White parents gave up children for adoption, which was not available to black parents, and this disparity was used — and continues to be used today — to argue against black families’ worth and self-direction in the U.S.

‘My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights’ by Robin Stevenson

Clocking in at just over 200 pages, My Body My Choice is a quick-and-dirty primer on the facts surrounding abortion in the U.S. For people who are new to reproductive activism, this is an excellent place to begin reading.

‘This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor’ by Susan Wicklund and Alan Kesselheim

Written by an doctor compelled to wear a bulletproof vest and carry a gun for protection, This Common Secret combines Susan Wicklund’s 20 years of experience in abortion clinics with patient testimonies, giving readers a fascinating and important look beyond the protesters and behind the closed doors of American clinics.