Abstract // Characterizing successful reproductive health legislation

When thinking about reproductive justice activism in Virginia, I kept returning to the idea of feasibility. I knew that policy recommendations delivered to legislators or to advocacy organizations needed to be “feasible”, but had no real sense of what that meant in the context of this state’s current political climate.

To answer that question, I’m looking to Virginia’s legislative past. Virginia‚Äôs Legislative Information System (LIS) offers fully searchable records of all legislation from both the General Assembly and the Senate dating back to 1994. In addition to the texts of the bills and associated amendments, LIS includes legislative history information such as committee assignments, committee recommendations, and votes.

By connecting the content of bills, their legislative histories, and statistics on the composition of Virginia’s legislative bodies and their committees and subcommittees, I hope to develop an understanding of the characteristics of successful reproductive health bills. In a somewhat parallel aim, this research will also allow for assessment of where in the legislative process other bills fail.

In developing my analytical framework I will have to decide what qualifies as reproductive health legislation and which characteristics of the legislation I’m examining I’d like to consider. I intend to make preliminary choices on such matters before applying the framework to legislation introduced between 1994 and 1997. This will allow me the opportunity to refine my methods before approaching the main subject of my analysis — 1998-2017.

At the end of the summer I’ll produce both a more traditional research paper to be presented to major reproductive health advocacy groups in Virginia and a succinct memo to be provided to state legislators who work on issues of reproductive health.


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