This news was understandably overshadowed by the national frenzy that erupted the next day following reports that U.S. forces had killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack. But for those of us who care deeply about protecting a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, this latest news should not be allowed to be swept aside.
In my years as a reporter, I relished the opportunity to learn more about, and communicate to readers, both sides of the abortion debate. I left my own feelings on the matter locked up in a box, and it grew easier and easier not to look closely at them over time.
Even now, I relish the opportunity to learn more about why people who disagree with me about this feel the way they do. I respect that those who disagree with me do so passionately, in many cases based on religious teachings that guide their lives.
I write now not to attack anyone’s sincerely held beliefs, as vehemently as I may disagree with them. I write to appeal to those who agree with me that abortion in the United States should be safe, legal and accessible.
I am here to preach to the choir.
Abortion rights in the U.S. are at risk. And in 2020, they are on the ballot.
Conservative Supreme Court justices have, for years, described the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling as “settled law.” But “settled law” is only settled until it’s not. Lower courts are required to abide by settled law. The Supreme Court can overturn it.
And that’s what 207 members of Congress — including Wisconsin’s Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Glenn Grothman, James Sensenbrenner and Bryan Steil — are asking it to do, with Roe and with Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
If you need a refresher on these two landmark decisions, here you go: Roe legalized abortion in the U.S. Casey, while upholding Roe, prohibited states from placing an “undue burden” on access to abortion. Together, they work to keep abortion safe, legal and accessible — in theory.
If you’ve lived in Wisconsin in the last decade, you might be aware that Roe and Casey can only do so much. Or if you haven’t wanted or needed an abortion during that time, you might not be aware of that.
As governor from 2010-18, Scott Walker signed into law some of the most aggressive anti-abortion measures in the nation, including laws that ban medication abortions via videoconference with a doctor; that require women to undergo an ultrasound exam before getting an abortion; and that ban abortion 20 weeks “post-fertilization” (a designation widely rejected by the medical community).
Walker in 2013 also signed into law a requirement that the state's abortion providers have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. The law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in November 2015. In 2016, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to that ruling, shortly after finding that a similar Texas law violated Casey’s “undue burden” standard.
But admitting privileges are once again before the high court, this time thanks to an identical law in Louisiana. Laws like these have no medical basis, according to the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but instead serve to limit women’s access to safe abortions.
The 207 members of Congress who signed onto the amicus brief are using a sham argument — that the restrictions they favor make abortions safer — as a way to further erode abortion rights. If they succeed, abortion will not cease, but it will be less accessible and less safe, particularly for women with fewer resources.
So what, you might ask, are we supposed to do about this?
If we value a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, we must vote as if we do.
When we talk about core values — health care chief among them — abortion access must not be an implied aside.
It’s not just about the courts — although the person who is elected president in 2020 will have plenty of opportunities to make judicial appointments that reflect his or her values. It’s also about guaranteeing these rights under federal law.
The majority of Democrats seeking the presidential nomination in 2020 support codifying Roe v. Wade as federal law, allowing Medicaid coverage for abortion, and ending government funding restrictions for family planning organizations and those that provide abortion referrals. Several have signaled their support for a proposal introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris, who has since ended her presidential campaign, to require federal approval before states could restrict abortion rights.
If we value a woman’s right to access abortion, we must not only vote for candidates who support that right — we also must not allow this issue to be swept aside as a “fringe issue” or a “women’s issue” in 2020.
Reproductive freedom is health care, and health care is a human right.
Let that be our refrain as we preach to the choir. If we don’t, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when only the wealthy have legal freedom of choice. Or maybe no one at all.
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