Defend freedom of choice

Thirty-nine years after Roe v. Wade, more barriers are being placed between women and access to abortion

The author is the director of public policy for Women’s Health Specialists: The Feminist Women’s Health Centers of California (

Access to abortion care and all sexual and reproductive health care is essential to self-determination. Thirty-nine years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, making abortion legal across the land. One-third of all U.S. women will have an abortion by the age of 45.

After the Roe decision, we promptly opened nonprofit feminist clinics, with the goal of offering all options for all women and overcoming barriers to health-care access. Our philosophy is that people can make their own decisions about their lives and reproduction. We provide community-based health care and information in a nonjudgmental way.

Anti-abortion groups have increased efforts to stop women from making a decision to end a pregnancy by creating barriers to abortion services. Access to clinics is essential, since clinics provide 94 percent of abortion care in the United States.

This past year, a number of states have enacted a shocking threefold increase in the number of abortion restrictions, mostly impeding access. These new laws are the result of anti-abortion strategy to delay women’s access to care. The laws cause delays by requiring unnecessary waiting periods, nonmedical ultrasound requirements that increase travel days for women and their doctors, and through insurance and other abortion bans in some states.

Such delays mean that women will be further along in pregnancy. They can push a woman into the second trimester of her pregnancy, making abortion more difficult or impossible to access, even here in California.

Sources of access problems include the barriers faced by rural women, poor women, and women with language difficulties: isolation and lack of transportation. Another source is the campaign of lies, coercion and misinformation promoted by “crisis pregnancy centers,” which exist to dissuade women from obtaining abortion services.

San Francisco recently passed a key ordinance regulating false advertising in these fake (anti-abortion) clinics. Cities and counties should take the lead from the San Francisco supervisors and support truth in advertising.

Women’s Health Specialists, along with our pro-choice partners, work on all of these fronts to increase access. We need your support to make reproductive choices a reality for everyone.