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Media release: New website ranks states on reproductive, sexual rights

New York, New Mexico best at respecting such freedoms; South Dakota comes in last

WASHINGTON, May 31 — In Colorado and Kentucky, a female state employee can't use her job’s insurance for an abortion — even when it’s medically necessary. While Massachusetts issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples, more than 40 other states have passed laws or amended their constitutions to define marriage as a male-female union and refuse to recognize those marriages. These examples illustrate that where a person resides in the United States is not just a matter of geography. It’s a matter of rights, according to a new interactive Web site that scores the states and Washington, D.C., on their legislation regarding sexual and reproductive rights.

Mapping Our Rights: Navigating Discrimination Against Women, Men and Families (www.mappingourrights.org ) was launched today at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The Web site is a unique collaboration between Ipas, an international reproductive health organization based in Chapel Hill, N.C.; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.
Complete with state-by-state rankings, Mapping Our Rights is an ideal tool for monitoring state policies. A resource that will help activists, journalists and researchers, it's also for people who want to know how their state — or a state they may relocate to — governs their bodies and relationships.

Leila Hessini, Ipas senior policy advisor, said: “Historically, the United States has represented ideals of liberty and equality for much of the world. But, as this project demonstrates, that freedom often depends on the state you call home.”

The clickable, online map uses more than 20 indicators to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including:

  • Public funding for family planning and abortion

  • Whether health-care providers can deny medical services because of their beliefs

  • Whether same-sex couples can adopt

  • The use of abstinence-only curricula in schools

  • Whether states have anti-discrimination clauses that explicitly protect gays

Using these measures, New York and New Mexico tied for the No. 1 spot. Those states earned top honors because each had many laws that promote, not restrict, reproductive and sexual rights. South Dakota's last-place finish was influenced by the state Legislature's approval of an abortion ban earlier this year.

With the launch of Mapping Our Rights, Ipas, the Task Force and SisterSong strive to promote awareness of discriminatory legislation and spur action.

Jason Cianciotto, research director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, said: “With the launching of Mapping Our Rights, the relationship between reproductive rights and the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is clear. From the right to control our own bodies, to access to fertility technology, to the application of scientifically based approaches to HIV/AIDS, people of every sexual orientation and gender identity share the most basic human concerns and goals.”

Loretta Ross, SisterSong’s national coordinator, said the map demonstrated how the issues of reproductive rights and economic and social justice were intrinsically linked.

“To conceive or not to conceive is not the question a woman asks when she wants to start a family. When a woman becomes pregnant, she’s also thinking about her financial situation, her access to health-care services, and whether there is room in her house for this child,” she said.

The map can be viewed at www.mappingourrights.org .


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