Reproductive rights are human rights

Shauna Heckert, Executive director, Women’s Health Specialists, a Feminist Women’s Health Center online at

Sunday, Jan. 22, commemorates the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion for women throughout the United States. After more than three decades of legal abortion, women’s right to choose is in serious jeopardy. We are worse off now than 30 years ago.

The Supreme Court shift to a majority that favors increased restrictions on abortion and human rights is a reality. The White House is fundamentally against a women’s right to choose. Why are we continuing to confirm, elect or nominate individuals to public office who would deny, abuse or be apathetic about a woman’s right to self-determination and her own free will? We are sustaining a culture of poverty, exclusion and control of women’s lives.

Reproductive rights are human rights. Regressive forces are at work to curtail civil liberties. Perhaps large numbers of women are not up in arms about this retrogressive agenda because they do not see how it affects their own lives. If you are wealthy and white, you have more privileges in our society. No one could ever stop the most privileged from getting an abortion. One in three women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the time they reach 45 years old. Women having abortions are increasingly likely to be poor, nonwhite and already have one or more children. Two-thirds of these women say they cannot afford to have the child and half do not want to be a single parent. The country’s economic problems have been shifted to the poor and the attack is most extreme for low-income women and their children.

Abortion is legal, but the everyday reality is that marginalized women who lack transportation, childcare or time off work, have insurmountable barriers: Illiteracy, poverty, provider shortage, limited transportation, employment and housing often prevent access, forming barriers as formidable as legal prohibition.

Abortion providers are operating in an increasingly hostile environment, trying to maintain services while fighting off attacks from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House, anti-abortion ballot initiatives and the ever-present clinic protesters that are maniacal in their quest to stop women from receiving abortion care.

Refuse to let prejudice or apathy drive abortion back to the secrecy, shame and danger of the back alley. Refuse to stand by idly as women in our community are marginalized and deprived of health care and human rights.

Consider this a call to action to support women’s health clinics, abortion providers, and only elect officials who respect and honor the rights and free will of women.