By Karen J. Nelson
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, affirming that a woman has the right to a safe and legal abortion. Who would have thought that 41 years later, we would still be fighting to guarantee that a woman can make this profoundly personal decision in consultation with her faith, her family and her health care provider, rather than her local politician?
Politicians who campaigned with promises of creating jobs have instead focused on ending access to safe and legal abortion. Using bogus claims of protecting “women’s health and safety,” they have engaged in an unprecedented assault designed to chip away at access to safe, legal abortion. According to recent data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, more than 200 restrictions on abortion access have become law since 2010. As a result, nationwide, more than half of American women of reproductive age now live in states where access to abortion is obstructed.
Physicians and other medical experts, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose these actions on medical grounds. These actions also are deeply unpopular with Americans of all political stripes. A majority of Americans support and respect the decision each woman must make about her own pregnancy. In particular, six in 10 young Americans believe that abortion should be available in all or most cases.
Young Americans do not identify with “pro-choice” or “pro-life” labels because they do not reflect the complexity of the issue. For them, reproductive freedom is not simply about abortion. Reproductive freedom intersects with a spectrum of social justice issues, such as poverty and discrimination, that impact people’s ability to truly make decisions that are best for themselves, their families and their communities.
In New York, the Women’s Equality Agenda acknowledges the interconnected nature of these issues, as well as their cumulative impact on women’s lives. Every single measure of the Women’s Equality Agenda is critically important. Women are breadwinners, they are mothers, they are family health care managers and they are caregivers. By including provisions that will upgrade New York’s laws on abortion, domestic violence, human trafficking and gender discrimination, the Women’s Equality Agenda recognizes that to ensure equality, we have to dismantle discrimination in all facets of women’s lives.
As we commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood, its supporters and its collaborators promise to tirelessly work for passage of the Women’s Equality Agenda in New York. Together, we will fight back the wave of attacks against reproductive freedom that seek to deny fundamental justice and equality to women.
Karen J. Nelson is chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York.