Reproductive rights are human rights

Shauna Heckert is executive director of Women’s Health Specialists, a feminist women’s health center

Sunday, January 22, commemorated 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.

The Supreme Court is shifting to a majority that favors increased restrictions on abortion and human rights. The White House is fundamentally against a woman’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. 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 United States will have an abortion before reaching age 45. Women having abortions are increasingly likely to be poor and non-white and to have one or more children already. Two-thirds of these women say they cannot afford to have the child, and half do not want to be a single parent. The burden of the country’s economic problems falls disproportionately on the poor and is most extreme for low-income women and their children.

Abortion remains legal, but in reality, marginalized women who lack transportation, child care or time off work have insurmountable barriers: Illiteracy, poverty, provider shortage, limited transportation, employment and housing often prevent access. These barriers are as formidable as legal prohibition.

Abortion providers operate in an increasingly hostile environment, trying to maintain services while fighting off attacks from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House and anti-abortion ballot initiatives, while ever-present clinic protesters maniacally continue 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.

Support women’s health clinics and abortion providers, and elect officials who respect and honor the rights and free will of women.