More health regulation limits liberty
Two weeks ago, Sen. Wendy Davis made national news with her filibuster for women’s health in the Texas capitol, wherein she spoke for 13 straight hours about abortion rights. The event led Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session for the Texas Legislature to further discuss the issue of abortion rights, essentially trying to toughen up the restrictions on timing—by reducing the week limit to 20—and clinic regulations.
While Roe v. Wade made abortion before the point of fetus viability—usually between 24-28 weeks—a constitutionally protected right for women, state abortion laws can be used to restrict the ease with which a woman can receive a procedure. For example, the Texas sonogram law requires that, at least 24 hours before her procedure, a woman seeking an abortion must see ultrasound images of her fetus and the heartbeat must be made audible. For many women, such requirements make a painful decision even more grueling.
In Nevada, we have a fairly progressive stance on abortion rights, particularly compared to Texas. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a study from 2008 estimated that 22 percent of total pregnancies in Nevada resulted in induced abortions. Of all unintended pregnancies in 2006, 45 percent resulted in live births and 42 percent resulted in induced abortions. According to the National Abortion Federation, “it is estimated that 35 percent of all women of reproductive age in America today will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45.” Therefore, it would seem that Nevadan women are below estimated trends for the number of abortion recipients per capita.
As a libertarian, I am—predictably—a staunch supporter of limited government interference in the lives of private citizens, particularly where health is concerned. For the case of abortion in particular, I don’t think government interference would do anything but worsen the state of women’s health. Government interference would increase the number of illegal and unsafe abortions that occur, and it would also increase the number of children who are born into households that cannot take care of them, putting overwhelming pressure on the social service sector of the government. In an ideal world, every conceived fetus would be intentional, and abortion wouldn’t be necessary. But the fact remains that accidents, ill preparedness, health concerns and rape are realities that women face, and they therefore must be in control of whatever consequences will affect their bodies, lives and futures.
Forty years after its passing, it’s hard to believe that Roe v. Wade still has opponents like Gov. Perry who are actively trying to break down the rights that women have to their own reproductive lives. While women in America have more freedoms in this arena than in many other parts of the world, there is still a threat to how those freedoms operate in politics.
There are many steps that can be taken in addition to legalized abortion to help women (and men!) have better control over their reproductive futures, like better sex education, access to birth control and availability of the Plan B pill—which, contrary to much anti-abortion activist rhetoric, does not cause miscarriage. If taken within several days of unprotected sex, the Plan B pill will prevent pregnancy from occurring in the first place. The age limit for Plan B, which was recently only for women over the age of 17, was recently lifted so that soon women under the age of 17 can also purchase it over the counter.
Reproductive freedoms are the key to gender equality, and allowing women to have the freedom to choose whether or not to be pregnant is an important factor in that equality. While every step to avoid unwanted pregnancy should be taken, abortion rights are still essential and need to be preserved.