2011 started with news of a devastating $5 billion state budget shortfall and a legislative session in Olympia that went into overtime through the end of May leading to $4.5 billion in cuts.

[pullquote]Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that offered little more than grim political choices, Cola readers point to developments from 2011 that give them hope.[/pullquote]

Six months later, as the recession continues to hit the economy, state legislators—facing another $1.5 billion shortfall—have been called back to Olympia to end the year right where they started it with another round of overtime: A special legislative session to make more cuts. Governor Chris Gregoire is now recommending $2 billion in additional cuts.

It’s scary out there—and as legislators look at cutting health programs, public safety officers, environmental programs, and education— there doesn’t seem to be much to be thankful for politically. Making a Sophie’s Choice between ending assistance for low-income pregnant women and assistance for at-risk youth doesn’t fall into the politics-of-hope category.

Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that seemed to offer little more than a repeating loop of grim political choices, we asked Cola readers to point us to political developments from the past year that give them hope.

 

Christi Stapleton is the interim executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, a group that supports reproductive freedom and abortion rights.

Washington has been steadfast in support of women’s reproductive rights. We were the first state to legalize abortion by a vote of the people and repeatedly stand up for reproductive rights and access.. We passed Initiative 120, the Reproductive Privacy Act, to guarantee women's right to birth control and abortions, while requiring the state to provide equivalent care for abortions as it does for state-funded maternity care. We did this 20 years ago. In contrast, Mississippi ran a “personhood” ballot measure this year to challenge Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have continued.

And while women have faced attacks against reproductive freedoms, recent national and local developments give me reason to be thankful and give me hope for the coming year. The ray of hope? Mississippi and the failed effort to defund Planned Parenthood show that America understands that reproductive choices aren’t partisan. For that, I’m thankful.

Ninety-nine of women will use birth control in their lifetime and one in three will have an abortion. Fifty percent of pregnancies are unintended and Medicaid pays for half of the births in the US. Family planning, therefore, is good public policy and good fiscal policy. For every dollar our state invests in family planning, taxpayers save more than four dollars in unintended pregnancy care. We can't afford not to fund family planning. Earlier this year, the legislature passed SB 5912, which will make thousands more low-income women eligible for the Take Charge Medicaid family planning program. More reason to be thankful.The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is groundbreaking.

It includes reproductive health in basic health and adds maternity coverage and HPV/HIV testing.  Birth control with no co-pay! Women will no longer pay more because of their gender. I am hopeful the Supreme Court finds it constitutional and ACA implementation maintains and expands our state’s commitment to access to all reproductive health care options, including abortion care.

I applaud Gov. Chris Gregoire for the revenue option in her budget proposal and I hope there’s even more coming. Family planning has lost $3 million in the state, causing more than $13 million in additional Medicaid costs. Budgeted cuts include $1.8 million in family planning grants, which will affect 5,000 women. I hope that Olympia understands this results in $7 million in pregnancy costs.

Both nationally and locally, the shining ray of hope is that people overwhelmingly believe women should make their own decisions regarding their bodies. Our challenge is to avoid complacency. With all the good news, it’s easy to think that the battle has been won in Washington. It isn’t over. Today, in fact, a federal district judge in Tacoma is hearing arguments over whether pharmacies should be required to dispense emergency contraception.

NARAL will continue to guard the slippery slope and elect the right candidates, hold them accountable, and pass legislation. That, of course, means lots and lots of hard work and continued commitment to Washington’s pro-choice majority.  NARAL will be very active to assure that our next governor is 100 percent pro-choice, in word and deed, no matter the audience.

To read more from our Thanksgiving series, start here.
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