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Women's Rights = Human Rights

This week’s post has been particularly hard for me to write. I am stunned at the decision in Texas to ban abortion at 6 weeks. Since 2019 there are four other states (Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi) that have successfully passed legislation that makes it illegal to have this procedure after the “fetal heartbeat” is heard, ostensibly at 6 weeks. And, Alabama, cruelest of them all, criminalizes all abortions, for any reason, there.

I feel that women’s reproductive health rights are under attack, with this new legislation that not only looks to route the Supreme Court and banish abortion in its borders, but it is scarily pitting people against each other. Our neighbors can spy on us and report us? What is this – 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale – pick your dystopia – it is here, my friend.

Polls tell us that about 57% of the country want legal abortions, and I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it is because more than half the adults polled want access to a safe and legal medical procedure for themselves and the people they love. And I will go further out to say even in these states where onerous legislation has been passed, not everyone agrees with it. Am I right?

So here we are back in Texas, for what looks to be a historical decision on women’s reproductive rights – no, let’s make that women’s rights, almost 50 years later. The 1973 decision by the Supreme Court to strike down the Texas statute banning abortion determined that a woman’s right to a legal abortion was protected by the 14th amendment’s implicit right of privacy.

Now, new legislation which caught everyone by surprise, has been signed into law by the Texas governor, and we don’t hear a peep out of the Supreme Court. Again, with the six weeks limit and more importantly, the provision that a private citizen can sue anyone who aids and abets a woman seeking an abortion, whether it be the clinic, the doctor, a friend. It doesn’t matter.

And, what about motives to sue? What about the implications of all this unnecessary litigation on backlogged courts? This is a very clever law that makes it exceedingly difficult to sue the Republican legislature who, to the man, signed this bill. There is no one to sue over Senate Bill 8, to stop this madness.

Did you know that until the late 19th century, abortion was legal in the US, up until the “quickening” (movement) was felt (by the mother) at approximately four months gestation? Abortion became increasingly restricted from the 1820s through 1890, primarily to regulate the harmful drugs that were used to induce miscarriage, to stop midwives and homeopaths competing with doctors, and to satisfy “nativists” who feared the country had too many immigrants and not enough white children were being born. Wow, this last bit of rhetoric sounds eerily familiar.

"Any ban on access to abortion is extreme, period. It risks a woman's life and is an attack on her most fundamental rights," said Rachel Sussman, national director of state policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

I am with her on this. This is a medical procedure, and I don’t think it is one a woman takes lightly when she makes the decision to terminate a pregnancy, for any reason. It is her business what she does with her body. Women's rights are human rights.

And women don’t need to be judged as someone who is immoral, lacking in responsibility, lazy, or stupid, either. I had a friend who got pregnant years ago because she was on antibiotics and the birth control didn’t work. She opted for an abortion, because she and her husband were ending their marriage and she already had two small children to take care of on her own.

It was not an easy decision, and I supported her. That’s what we need to do for each other. Not tell on one another. Who are we to judge? And why are we allowing ourselves to be judged for something we might do, or support?

I know there are people out there who believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of life and I respect your opinion. However, is this the way to go about it? Calling people “baby killers” and making death threats (some of which are carried out) on other human beings?

I feel there is misogyny around this entire debate. For years women who wanted to be responsible and use birth control had to pay out of their own pocket for pills, yet when Viagra came along it was covered by health insurance. And let’s face it, if women don’t take care of the birth control, it isn’t going to happen.

Now, I am past the time I must worry about getting pregnant, but I do have some life experience. I have seen single parent households with too many children and not enough money. I have seen women make hard choices, that have left them feeling sad and isolated, because of it.

I have also seen women come a long way in terms of healthcare equity and more birth control options. And I worry that these too will get chipped away. We won’t have access to regular gynecological checkups, mammograms, RU486 morning-after pills, birth control pills, IUDs, and BHRT treatments. And I worry about young women in this country who may be left with no choice. And that makes me very sad.

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