Women deserve reproductive freedom

CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN, News Editor

With the passage of Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8) in Texas – which effectively bans almost all abortions in the state – reproductive rights for women in the United States are slowly and systematically being reduced.

In a controversial decision that sparked outcry from reproductive rights activists, S.B. 8 bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy from the woman’s last menstrual period. Pregnancy at six weeks is notoriously difficult to detect, even for women closely monitoring their cycle. Women with conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis may have further complications as detecting pregnancies with these conditions causes cycles to be irregular. Both PCOS and endometriosis are common conditions with more than 200,000 cases reported each year for both conditions. Even if women figure out they are pregnant before the six week deadline, it may take weeks to receive an abortion at a clinic, and by then she will be past the point of legality. 

Although the law claims abortions could be acceptable in cases of medical emergency, in cases of rape or incest abortion is outlawed. 

Women deserve to draw the line on their health

In the midst of the frenzied debate by lawmakers and pro-lifers, people seem to forget that women are intelligent, autonomous human beings that should be able to make decisions about their reproductive health. A government mandate will not make the decision to have an abortion an easier decision for women. History has proven if women do not have access to a safe abortion, they will find ways to have one regardless if it is safe or legal. Whether out of desperation or other personal reasons, women will continue to have abortions.

Ultimately the passage of restrictive abortion laws is sending the message that women do not have the intelligence or moral compass to decide whether or not to have an abortion. We should trust women to draw the line on their own reproductive health because women deserve the dignity and right to choose what they do with their body.  

Women have autonomy and intelligence and – as most state legislatures seem to forget –  heartbeats. Women are so much more than their reproductive organs and should be treated as such. 

Even basic reproductive health procedures like tubal ligation or tubal occlusion (also known as “getting your tubes tied”) have obstacles women have to jump through in order to receive the procedure. Some medical professionals require a woman to get permission from her husband before she gets a tubal ligation, and some providers urge women not to get the procedure especially if they are still in “childbearing years.” It is no coincidence that men who get vasectomies do not encounter any of these issues.

The irony of pro-lifers

As women’s lives and livelihoods continue to be endangered by restrictive policies related to their reproductive organs, pro-life legislatures and advocates spout hypocritical nonsense. Although they claim to be pro-life and fight for the lives of unborn children, they certainly do not fight for the quality of life when the baby is actually born. 

For example, in 2018 the Trump administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) advocated pay cuts to programs which help families afford basics. Programs such as Medicaid and CHIP, SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), TANF, housing assistance, LIHEAP, tax credits and Supplemental Security Income that help families and children substantially faced funding cuts. 

Pro-lifers also often push for wildly unrestricted gun rights, and children are often the innocent victims of these unrestricted policies. According to the non profit Children’s Defense Fund, “Children witnessed, suffered, or died in 611 mass shootings in 2020—up from 417 in 2019,” and “Since 1963, nearly 193,000 children and teens have been killed with guns on American soil—more than four times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined.” Pro-lifers seem to be quite unconcerned about these startling statistics. Pushing for more unrestricted gun laws is just fine when a profit can be made.

The government needs to mind its own business

Many pro-lifers argue women receive abortions well into the third trimester, when the baby is mostly formed, which is unethical and immoral. According to the Washington Post, abortions after the third trimester are exceedingly rare making up only 1.3% of abortions. When abortions are carried out this late in the pregnancy, the women was more than likely expecting to carry to full term and must make the heart wrenching decision to continue her pregnancy putting herself or her child at serious risk. The government mandating restrictive abortions laws does not make the decision to have an abortion morally better or easier for the woman or the family.

Instead of creating a culture of control and fear over reproductive rights and abortion, we need comprehensive sex education, safe sex supplies and reproductive health care readily available for women and men alike. We also need child care and supportive services for families and children after they are born. 

Ultimately the government should never have a say in a medically private, personal and moral issue that is incredibly unique and specific to thousands of different women 

Ultimately the government should never have a say in a medically private, personal and moral issue that is incredibly unique and specific to thousands of different women from different cultural, age, ethnic and backgrounds. 

A woman diagnosed with cancer should not be forced to put her life in critical danger by carrying out a risky pregnancy.

An expectant mother should not be forced to have her baby even when her baby will only live for a few excruciating painful moments.

A 13 year old rape victim should not be forced to carry a child when she is a child herself. 

Our government does not know better than doctors. Our government does not know better than the pregnant women who are impacted by restrictive abortion policies. Until women’s reproductive rights are fully recognized, women’s reproductive health and rights will continue to be merely an afterthought for pro-life supporters.

To support organizations fighting the abortion ban in Texas specifically, go to actblue.com, prochoicetexas.org, and support local Planned Parenthoods to help secure reproductive rights and freedoms.