Donald Trump's presidential victory has many advocates of women's reproductive rights worried — and rightly so. Based on the claims he made during his campaign, there's evidence that President-elect Trump will try to impede abortion access. This is the man who at one point suggested that there should be a ban on abortions, and women who have them should be punished. He's also vowed to nominate pro-life judges, said he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, and threatened to defund Planned Parenthood. Such claims have left many pro-choice Americans concerned about how far Trump will go. Emboldened by his election, some conservative state legislatures have begun promoting increasingly draconian bills that would obstruct abortion access or, effectively, block it entirely.
In Ohio, for example, the state legislature passed an absurd so-called "heartbeat bill" that would ban abortion at six weeks. Many doctors, for reference, won't even see an abortion patient before six weeks into the pregnancy because the chance of miscarriage is so high. Ultimately, Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill in favor of a 20-week abortion ban. Many pro-choice advocates have argued that a 20-week abortion ban is also unconstitutional — and some federal judges have agreed, striking down such bans in Idaho an Arizona.
In Texas, the state passed a law requiring the cremation or burial of aborted fetuses. Critics of the bill noted that the cost of such procedures would be very high, suggesting that the law was proposed primarily as an impediment to the regular functioning of clinics that provide abortion. Blake Rocap, the legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said, "It's so transparent that what they're really trying to do is denying access to abortion."
Unfortunately, it seems all too likely that the fight against safe abortion access will only grow stronger over the next four years.
All the more reason, then, to be thankful for politicians who fight for women's right to control their own bodies. The politicians below are some of the most ardent fighters for reproductive rights, and if pro-choice activists are successful over the next four years, it will likely be in large part because of their efforts.
1. Barbara Lee
The California congresswoman led a group of over 100 Democratic members of the House of Representatives in sending President-elect Donald Trump a letter urging him to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion. The Hyde Amendment means that women on federally-funded insurance, like servicewomen, low-income women, and federal employees, may not have access to an abortion funded by her insurer. Rep. Lee has previously introduced legislation aimed at helping all American women fund pregnancy-related healthcare decisions, and wrote an editorial in U.S. News. condemning the Hyde Amendment.
Lee doesn't plan to quit her efforts in the next four years. After Trump's election, Lee made a vow to her constituents that "the fight is coming."
2. Kamala Harris
Newly elected California senator (and rising Democratic star) Kamala Harris has a history of fighting for reproductive rights. As Attorney General of California, she sponsored a bill that sought to prevent anti-choice crisis centers from misinforming women seeking pregnancy counseling. Harris was enthusiastically endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which called her a "relentless fighter when it comes to empowering women."
3. Wendy Davis
While serving as a Texas state senator, Wendy Davis became famous at the national level. Davis took on a the infamous Texas anti-choice bill that sought to limit access to abortion through placing extreme restrictions on abortion clinics and providers with an 11-hour filibuster, during which she was not allowed to eat, drink, use the restroom, or sit. While her filibuster was successful, the legislation ultimately passed as Texas House Bill 2 (Texas H.B. 2). However, in June the Supreme Court ultimately declared Texas H.B. 2 unconstitutional in a big victory for fighting TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws.
Moreover, after an unsuccessful run for the Texas governorship, Davis is back on her feet and fighting again. She currently runs an activist group called Deeds Not Words that aims to empower women and allies to fight for income inequality, sexual assault prevention, and reproductive rights. Her gubernatorial bid may have been unsuccessful (not surprising for a Democrat in Texas), but she may be on the political stage again soon: earlier this year, she told a Huffington Post's "Candidate Confessional" podcast that she'd like to run for office again.
4. Richard Blumenthal
The U.S. senator from Connecticut is a longtime advocate for women's reproductive rights. In 2014, Blumenthal introduced the Women's Health Protection Act, legislation to prohibit any state restrictions intended to dissuade women from having an abortion, including mandatory waiting periods, counseling, and other restrictions. Senator Blumenthal stopped by a New England Planned Parenthood location earlier this week to give workers a "pep talk," promising to continue to fight for their reproductive rights in Congress.
5. Terry McAuliffe
Governor McAuliffe has been a critical figure in Virginia, which has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in recent years but remains somewhat purple at the local level. During his tenure as governor, McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have blocked funding from Planned Parenthood, ordered an extensive review of the previous administration's clinic restrictions, and, ultimately, oversaw the elimination of those same restrictions.
McAuliffe's tenure as governor is a testament to the fact that some of the most important political issues in this country require fighters at the state level as much as, if not more than, at the federal one. Indeed, when McAuliffe's time as governor is up in early 2018 (Virginia law prohibits running for reelection), pro-choice advocates will be on the front lines campaigning for another pro-choice candidate to succeed him.
6. Mary Lou Marzian
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Kentucky state representative Mary Lou Marzian made headlines earlier this year when she introduced a bill that would put restrictions on erectile dysfunction medication designed to resemble many of the restrictions on abortion access in Kentucky and other states. Marzian didn't expect the bill to pass, but she wanted to call attention to the way that anti-choice lawmakers seek to chip away at abortion access and how ridiculous those measures would be when I applied to other medical practices. Marzian, who worked as a nurse before her career in the Kentucky house, told Bustle this February why she's been such an avid fighter for reproductive rights:
I think the pro-choice movement has felt that war is over, that we've got access to safe, legal access to abortions. It's always easier to fight against something. It's harder to rev up people when we have that right. I really think this is waking people up to the precipice we're on to losing safe legal abortions.
Marzian will be taking that fight into 2017: she ran for reelection this fall and was uncontested.
7. José Rodríguez
The Texas state senator (representing El Paso) was a former colleague of Wendy Davis's, and he appears to carry on her legacy for fighting for reproductive rights in Texas. Rodríguez has spoken out against a proposed bill to make it harder for minors to obtain abortions without parental consent and celebrated the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (which overturned Texas regulations that would have devastated abortion clinics). Before the Hellerstedt ruling, Rodríguez led efforts to overturn the bill.
Ultimately, while anti-choice advocates are gearing up to make 2017 the worst year yet for reproductive rights, pro-choice politicians at the local and federal level won't give up easily. If you want to get involved in the fight to protect women's reproductive rights, you can donate to women's health organizations, call your representatives, or volunteer with Planned Parenthood today.