This week in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its milestone decision in Roe v. Wade. That means the right to safe, legal abortion has been the law of the land for 45 years, and is a part of the fabric of this country.
The majority of women in the United States were born after Roe was decided. For many of them, the legal right to make decisions about whether and when to become a parent is something they have known their entire life.
However, the unfortunate reality today is that more than half of women of reproductive age live in states where access to abortion is being needlessly restricted by their state legislatures.
Even here in the Rogue Valley, Planned Parenthood’s three health centers have been threatened by right-wing politicians like Congressman Greg Walden. He has repeatedly made the preposterous claim that if Planned Parenthood goes away, Oregon patients can simply find a Federally Qualified Health Center to take care of them. This claim has been rebutted by public health experts and by FQHCs themselves.
In fact, a policy analysis by the Guttmacher Institute indicates that FQHCs in Oregon would need to triple their patient load — at a time when many are already at full capacity — in order to meet the needs of low-income Oregon women who rely on Planned Parenthood for high-quality contraceptive care.
Let’s be clear: Women are in the center of Donald Trump’s political crosshairs and are facing the worst political landscape for women’s health in a lifetime — from undermining maternity care to attacking Planned Parenthood to forcing through the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Thankfully, elected leaders in Oregon such as State Rep. Pam Marsh,. D-Ashland, are resisting and persisting. Last summer, she joined her colleagues in passing the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which safeguards the right to abortion if Roe is overturned. It also expands reproductive health coverage to Oregonians regardless of their income level, gender identity or citizenship status.
In the 2018 election, voters will have the opportunity to re-elect Gov. Kate Brown, who bravely stood up to federal attacks on reproductive freedom by signing the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law. Her likely opponent, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, opposed this landmark protection for Oregon women.
Voters also might face a dangerous ballot measure that would restrict low-income Oregonians from accessing abortion — forcing those who have the least to pay the most in order to access safe, legal care. When a woman is living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for an abortion can push her deeper into poverty.
There is a reason women make up the core of the resistance: They will not stand to see decades of progress walked back. Too many people still face barriers to health care, especially young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas and people with low incomes.
It started one year ago when millions joined the Women’s March — the largest demonstration in history. From there, women led the charge in blocking Trumpcare and defending Planned Parenthood.
More women than ever are running for elected office because they are tired of politicians like Trump trying to take away their rights. Women are speaking out in the workplace because they are sick of predatory bosses and institutional inequality. And women are energized because powerful men are being held accountable.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon is proud to be a part of the fight. In fact, for more than 100 years, the idea behind Planned Parenthood has been bigger than women’s health. It’s about each individual fulfilling their own life path, and the fundamental belief that freedom and full equality cannot be achieved until everyone has control over their lives at the most basic level: bodies, families and future.
It’s 2018, and we shouldn’t be debating women’s bodily autonomy. Yet, we are still fighting for a world that respects women, treats women with dignity and pays women equally. A world where women can prevent pregnancy if they want to, or plan and raise healthy families on their own timeline. A world where women’s bodies are their own.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon will not stop fighting until every woman and every individual can control their body and their life.
— Bobby Abernathy is a Medford resident who serves on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. For more information visit PPAOregon.org.