A coalition of reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates released a policy blueprint on Monday outlining steps a pro-choice U.S. Congress and administration could take to advance these issues domestically and abroad.
Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said her organization worked with Planned Parenthood to convene the vast coalition of advocates who created the blueprint. The document will be sent to progressive members of both the House and Senate as well as “constituencies in different states” to build “a collective vision around what should be a visionary agenda for the future of reproductive health, rights, and justice,” she said.
The blueprint, endorsed by close to 80 organizations, “lays out a broad vision for the future that includes forward-thinking ideas to transform sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice policy domestically and globally, as well as basic and fundamental measures to correct the backtracking that has taken place in recent years,” according to a summary. It is meant to be “a starting point” to build out comprehensive policy that protects and advances reproductive health care. The blueprint outlines an array of policy goals, including allowing for “unobstructed access to abortion care,” rolling back the Trump administration’s attacks on LGBTQ health and rights, and addressing the health needs of immigrants and people who are incarcerated.
The groups that participated wanted to elevate their “key priorities” and visions “for this country so that all people, regardless of who they are, where they live or their [immigration] status, they can have access to truly full reproductive health, rights, and justice,” Ann Marie Benitez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health senior director for government affairs, told Rewire.News.
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The blueprint has five core tenets: ensuring sexual reproductive health care is accessible to all; that health care does not have discriminatory barriers; that research and innovation advances sexual health, rights, and justice; that health, rights, justice, and wellness are available to all communities; and that judges and executive officials advance these issues.
The document is both comprehensive and “inclusive of all of our communities,” Benitez said. She noted, for example, that the blueprint seeks to “end discriminatory treatment of immigrants when it comes to health care.” That issue is something “you don’t see frequently” discussed, she said, but this document pinpoints the barriers to care for those communities. It “recognizes that there is a myriad of policy, legal, and systemic barriers that restrict people’s access to coverage based solely on the immigration status,” said Benitez, adding that the reproductive health and rights of LGBTQ communities are integrated throughout the blueprint.
Benitez said the document was explicit in its mention of abortion. “It does not shy away from abortion,” she said. “Reproductive health and access to health care—abortion is central to that. And you will see that in this document.”
According to the document, the blueprint “is drafted with the expectation that it will be implemented as soon as we have a supportive Congress and Administration.” But right now, the policies would face opposition from the GOP-majority Senate and President Donald Trump.
Howell said the point of putting together a “visionary” document like this was in part to get “members of Congress to start talking to each other.” She noted that already there has been bipartisan action on issues like criminal justice reform. “We are putting forward a vision that we believe is the right vision for America moving forward,” she said, adding that lawmakers could take different aspects of the blueprint “and work together.”
The document could be useful for both candidates and incumbents seeking re-election, Howell said. “These are the kind of issues that the American public are looking for. They want to have people working together,” she said, pointing to a recently released poll finding that 72 percent of women of color voters wanted Congress to work together across the aisle.
“I think that we have to start somewhere,” Benitez said. “And the way to make real change is you have to have these conversations and you happen to have the real dialogue about real policy change.”
“While the Congress right now may not be in a place to pass some of these ideas we need to position ourselves to be ready when that does happen,” Benitez continued, “and this blueprint takes us there.”