What Congress Needs to Get Done in 2024 from a Reproductive Well-Being Perspective


What Congress Needs to Get Done in 2024 from a Reproductive Well-Being Perspective

February 7, 2024
A photo of a woman signing some papers on a desk.

As we enter the second month of the new year, schools are in, state legislatures are beginning their sessions, and many policymakers and experts are already thinking about the upcoming elections. Because of the latter, members of Congress have a very small window to push forward and implement policies before they begin intensive campaigning in the fall, followed by the post-election “lame duck,” session and the conclusion of the 118th Congress. 

While policymakers may have goals for the first half of 2024, it’s imperative that members of Congress use the limited session days they have left strategically and in a way that prioritizes protecting and expanding reproductive well-being for all. Here are four things Congress NEEDS to get done from a reproductive health, rights, and justice perspective:

Fund the Government 

The government has until early March to pass final Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 appropriations bills or face a government shutdown. FY 2024 began in October of last year, but Congress has failed to agree on a final appropriations level to date and so instead has continued to pass stop-gap bills to continue existing funding for a few months at a time. Most recently, in January, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund parts of the federal government until March 1 and other parts until March 8. This ongoing lack of FY 2024 final appropriations impacts programs and funding for sexual and reproductive health programs. 

For example, the Title X family planning program and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) are just two programs where the questions of if and how they’re funded can impact education and access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially for marginalized communities. Title X and TPP are crucial programs that provide people with the care and information they need to achieve their sexual and reproductive health care goals.

If these programs fail to be funded or lack the increased funding to meet the needs of those they serve, it will have a devastating impact on communities where people already struggle to make ends meet. That’s why it’s important for Congress to pass the FY24 appropriations bills with increased funding for critical sexual and reproductive health programs and without any policy restrictions on reproductive health care.

Pass Additional Proactive Policies to Safeguard Abortion Access

Congress must also work to pass proactive legislative policies to safeguard abortion access. Since the Dobbs decision in June 2022, at least fourteen states have banned abortion and at least 17 have restrictive policies, making accessing abortion extremely difficult. But make no mistake, even before the fall of Roe, abortion access was burdensome or downright inaccessible for many people seeking it. For decades, providers and patients faced state laws designed to criminalize pregnancy outcomes and make providing or receiving abortion care nearly impossible for some. That's why it’s vital for Congress to do everything in its power to implement policies that strengthen access to abortion. 

Legislators can work to improve access by listening to stakeholders and providing valuable resources to constituents, such as AbortionFinder, who may be seeking information on how to access abortion care resources.

Protect and Expand Access to Contraception

The Dobbs decision not only overturned Roe but also shed light on the threats to other sexual and reproductive health issues including the right to contraception. Currently more than 19 million women of reproductive age living in the US are in need of publicly funded contraception and live in contraceptive deserts. This means that they lack reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods.

Whether it’s a lack of access, or misinformation/disinformation about birth control, the attacks and inequities have only continued. That’s why it’s important for Congress to affirm the right to contraception and support measures that will expand coverage and access to it. Legislators must listen to their stakeholders and pass policies, such as the Right to Contraception Act, that expand access to birth control.

Pass Proactive Maternal Health Policies

It’s no secret that we have a maternal health crisis in the US. Unfortunately, this reality is particularly grim for Black women who are three times more likely to die in pregnancy or while giving birth in comparison to white women. Addressing the maternal health crisis is a critical issue of racial justice. 

Members of Congress should work to improve maternal health for everyone—and in particular for Black women—by listening to what they themselves say is needed. This includes passing policies that improve overall access to quality, unbiased health care, investing in training for providers, and expanding overall access to maternal, sexual, and reproductive health care. This includes passing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus package of bills and encouraging states to expand Medicaid postpartum coverage.  

With limited session days, it is important for members of Congress to take action to safeguard and expand reproductive health, rights, and justice. For more information on potential federal actions, visit Power to Decide’s blog on reproductive federal legislation and our federal policy action center.