Over this last year, unless you’ve been under a rock, you had to have noticed a significant upsurge in attacks on reproductive rights in my toohothomestate and at the national level.
While the Obama administration has taken the unprecedented step of approving near-universal coverage for contraception and birth-control, states like the one in which I live are whittling away reproductive health services in an attempt to limit the availability of contraception and early abortion services. For a significant time over this last year, Planned Parenthood which offers reproductive health services in rural parts of this largely rural state, to close clinics and force women to travel hundreds of miles to secure a least intrusive, medical abortion. The state legislature has made it illegal to offer these services through the direction of a nurse practitioner with the support of a medical doctor (who utilized video conferencing) and can now only be provided by a physician in the clinic. This tremendous financial burden successfully shut down clinics for several months.
The effort to overturn Roe v. Wade has largely been unsuccessful for the last 39 years. But the tactics to bully women and doctors has been increasing at a fever pitch. We are so used to hearing about attacks on doctors and women’s health clinics that it is beginning to be normalized. And legislative efforts to limit abortion seem normalized as well. Even the language of “protection for the unborn” in a creepy zombie-like twist of words belies an protection for the woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy and her difficult decision about what personal responsibility and choices she will make in the outcome. Even though Mississippi, a largely pro-life (sic.) state, rejected the recent efforts to amend their laws to protect the fetus, the sentiment that drove the legislation has become acceptable.
At the same time, there has been yet another a push from the Common Ground movement to bring pro-choice and anti-reproductive-rights activists to the table to reach a middle point on agreement in order to ease tensions between the two political factions. I have taken part in these efforts over the years, to no avail. In my experiences with the “common ground” movement, pro-choice folks were the ones who were, well… pro-choices. And for me, that’s why I am an activist, because women should be trusted to make all kinds of choices that they can live with on an individual level. Even middle-choicers(?!) feel comfortable taking away the opportunity to exert personal responsibility for individual decisions and I feel like that is a slippery slope.
The bottom line is that world-wide, Abortion Rates Remain Unchanged! The changes to reproductive rights access and contraception have forced women to attempt unsafe or medically-unsupervised procedures (often referred to as back alley abortions). While the numbers of women seeking abortion services stay the same, the availability of safe-legal and medically supervised reproductive rights services are dwindling. Restrictive abortion and contraceptive laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. Only efforts to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, including investments in family planning services and safe abortion care, will create an upward trend in women’s health outcomes.
While popular political wisdom espouses an ideology that folks in the middle are sick of the abortion debate, the rhetoric of the recent presidential debates belies this thought. People are still talking about and thinking about and worrying over abortion and reproductive health. As ever, I am advocating and working towards personally responsible reproductive rights access all over the place. The question really is, what are you going to do in support of the women — sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends that you know who may really need reproductive healthcare options in order to be personally responsible for their lives?