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Professor David Cohen Tallies State-Based Efforts to Protect Abortion in Washington Post Op-Ed

Professor David S. Cohen

May 01, 2019

Abortion-rights advocates are every bit as energized as activists and lawmakers who are seeking to curtail women’s reproductive options, Professor David S. Cohen argues in a Washington Post op-ed published on April 29.  

The article, which Cohen co-authored with University of California-San Francisco Professor Carole Joffe, notes the potential threats to abortion rights posed by increased numbers of conservative judges in the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.  

And Cohen and Joffe observe, numerous states are enacting laws that pose such stringent restrictions on care providers that women in some communities are unable to obtain abortions.   

But, propelled in large part by a young, diverse wave of advocates for reproductive justice, state and local governments have vigorously responded to this threat,” Cohen and Joffe wrote.  

Notably, New York overhauled its abortion law earlier in 2019, solidifying the right of women in the state to obtain abortions, even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and allowing medical professionals to treat women later in their pregnancies, if needed to protect their health.  

Vermont, Rhode Island and Illinois are considering similar legislation, the co-authors wrote, adding that state courts in Kansas blocked state lawmakers’ ban on abortions via telemedicine and affirmed a right to abortion under the state constitution.  

Cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Englewood, New Jersey have gone to court to defend buffer zones designed to shield women seeking abortions from harassment by anti-abortion protesters, the co-authors note.  

“While abortion is being restricted in some places, proactive state and local developments are helping significant numbers of people get access to the abortion and reproductive health care they need,” they said. “This proactive wave is proof that a pro-choice strategy is succeeding, at the same time Roe is being threatened. A national decision protecting the right to an abortion may be in danger. But abortion access will not vanish, not if cities and states continue to innovate to protect and expand access, and especially not when abortion rights supporters—a majority of Americans—refuse to give up in the face of daunting times.”


Cohen and Joffe are writing a book, "Obstacle Course: The Struggle to Get an Abortion in the United States," which will be published by the University of California Press.