Like most reproductive rights supporters, the outcomes of the 2010 elections across the U.S. caused me feel sad and quite frustrated. They say that election cycles ebb and flow, and because I can't change the past, I'll continue looking into the future in hopes that other elections will yield far better results. However, I am not willing to rest on a simple answer when it comes to choice in 2011.
Today is Blog for Choice. Now in its 6th year, Blog for Choice day, put on by NARAL Pro-Choice America, encourages us all to speak our minds and make our voices heard. This year's question is, "are you concerned about choice in 2011?" Clearly, the answer is an unequivocal: YES.
My worry is not that anti-choicers are going to succeed in rolling back Roe vs. Wade in this congress, with this supreme court or even in the near future. My concern lies in the small "gains" anti-choice legislators may achieve that in the grand scheme of things, may not feel like much but will undoubtedly matter to some woman somewhere in the country who has a right to reproductive options, yet has little or no access to them. Initiatives like a ban on abortion after 20 weeks is a prime example. Later term abortions happen. It is a fact. They are often very sad but also necessary to save a woman's life. If it becomes increasingly difficult to access these services, a woman's health is affected and it impacts her family, friends and loved ones, too. No one wants to be put in these kinds of situations, but there are so many things in life we can't control. I would never want to go through a heart-breaking situation during pregnancy, and I would certainly never wish that my female friends, cousins, sisters, or my niece have to experience it either.
Access to birth control and emergency contraception are two other examples that worry me. We have seen great gains in recent years with new forms of emergency contraception (also known as: the morning after pill), but it can be difficult in some areas of the country to find a pharmacy that stocks it. And, with rising health care costs and many women unemployed, underemployed and/or uninsured, the ability to afford the birth control pill is heavily impacted. Birth control pills should be viewed as preventative medicine and should be widely available to all women wishing to control if and when they enter into motherhood.
There are an abundance of bills on the state and federal level aimed at attacking choice, too. We know that John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House, will not stand in the way of their passage. And, at the state level, many state legislatures will succeed in passing some very detrimental anti-choice bills.
I've painted a pretty grim picture because we are up against some serious challenges and competition. The threats are real, but we haven't lost anything yet. There is still time to exercise our rights as citizens by calling legislators to speak up for reproductive freedom and access to good, quality reproductive healthcare. And, in the worst case scenario that some of these bills do pass, I am confident in the collective strength of us, the pro-choice supporters nationwide, to work hard in subsequent legislative sessions to repeal measures that infringe on our rights as women to access reproductive health care and have, options. I truly feel this all boils down to that one little word: options. If a woman doesn't want to take birth control, she shouldn't have to take it. If she doesn't want to have an abortion, by all means, she should never feel pressured to have one. Those are her choices. But for the rest of us out there, what are our choices? Where are our options? A legislator on Capitol Hill in Washington or in any state capital across the U.S. should not feel entitled to make decisions regarding our choices, our options, but it is happening. So, as a community, I hope we'll continue to speak up to preserve choice and to say, 'PLEASE, stop legislating against MY reproductive rights.'
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland