In a country where wearing a mask during a pandemic is a political debate, it is unfortunately no surprise that we are still arguing over reproductive health rights. On a matter as personal and difficult as this, it should be no one’s business. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that people are able to make informed decisions and have access to proper reproductive health services — not make those decisions for them.
After the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many are worried about the survival of Roe v. Wade, which ruled that the Constitution protects the right to access a safe and legal abortion. Allowing for this access to safe abortions helped reduce the number of deaths caused by illegal and dangerous abortion practices. Before the court ruling, in 1965, illegal abortions caused one-sixth of all pregnancy-related deaths. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, four states — Mississippi, Louisiana, North and South Dakota — have laws in place that would automatically ban all abortions, which would then lead to an increase in illegal abortion procedures. The upcoming election is also adding to the restlessness about the possibility of the ruling being overturned, causing a slump in both women’s and reproductive rights.
Many anti-abortion people assume that someone would end their viable pregnancy carelessly without reason, but the truth is that most abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Further, most late abortions are performed because of serious medical reasons, often to save the parent’s life. I think that most people can agree that abortions should be as rare as possible — but after banning them, people will take an unsafe and illegal route. We can decrease the amount of abortions by providing comprehensive sex education in schools, ensuring that there is accurate information about contraception and having contraception easily available. Congress has unfortunately been unwilling to pass a bill funding comprehensive sex education. They are, however, willing to continuously fund harmful abstinence-only programs which generally fail and rely on scare tactics.
Many people criticize Planned Parenthood because they provide abortion services but are quick to forget all the other services they provide. Along with access to abortions, they provide birth control, emergency contraception, vaccines, STD and HIV testing and treatment, reproductive cancer screenings, pap tests, medicines like PrEP and PEP that help prevent HIV, pregnancy services and prenatal care, transgender health services, vasectomies and other sterilization services. Planned Parenthood participates in a funding program called Title X which allows them to supplement birth control, gynecology care and other reproductive health services for those who cannot afford to pay for their health care services. In 2019 alone, millions of patients were able to access adequate non-abortion servcies from Planned Parenthood, thus displaying their multifaceted ability to provide health care.
There are so many situations in which someone may seek to terminate their pregnancy. Many of them are a lot more complex than it being the wrong time. What happens if pregnancy prevents recovery from rape? How about if that person is a young teenager getting ready to pay the price of repeated incestuous sexual assaults? What if it’s an ectopic pregnancy which would kill both them and the baby? The decision to have an abortion is not up for debate by people who force themselves into the situation — it is a deeply personal matter which can affect someone’s life forever. It is not yours nor the government’s place to make the decision of whether or not someone else should take the step to terminate their pregnancy.
I believe that all life is precious — both before and after birth. However, I also understand it is not my place to assert my personal beliefs over others. I am not a pro-lifer, but an authentic advocate for pro-life should be committed to the preservation of life in every single situation. An issue I find with many pro-lifers is their ability to pick and choose whose life matters. Many approve of the death penalty. There are also pro-lifers who find themselves in opposition with human rights movements like Black Lives Matter. It is quite simple — you either respect all life, or you don’t.
I am many things, but I am a young, Black woman first — and I know how backpedaling on reproductive rights will negatively affect both myself and my community. African Americans have the highest rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions in the country. It is imperative to realize that without access to safe abortions, the parent may decide to get an abortion illegally, have their baby and keep it — even if they are not ready to be a parent — or give the baby away to join the thousands of other parentless children in the country. Black women are also two to three times more likely to die in childbirth. It would be illogical to force the same women who die disproportionately in childbirth to have their babies anyway — and at the risk of their own lives.
Being pro-choice does not make a person pro-abortion — it means they are pro-reproductive rights. Pro-choice means to support an individual’s ability to make decisions about their own body. It is reasonable to hold concerns over other people's lives, but it is extremely unreasonable to assert your judgements and beliefs over them. The choice must be left to the individual, their family, their health care professionals and their religious advisers. The right to an abortion should never be a legislative or public opinion matter.
Aliyah D. White is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.