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Pursuing Choice in the States: The Current State(s) of Reproductive Rights

Pursuing Choice in the States: The Current State(s) of Reproductive Rights

It seems like every day—if not several times a day—that I get an email update from one of our coalition partners or from one of my reproductive rights news alerts telling me that another state anti-choice bill has moved forward. Just this week, Ohio state legislators introduced a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, one of several of its kind across the country; the Montana House of Representatives and an Idaho Senate committee passed a ban on abortion telemedicine, with dangerous implications for rural women who live too far from an abortion provider to consult a physician in person; and a Florida House committee advanced mandatory waiting period legislation, which would require patients to consult a physician at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

It can certainly be difficult to keep track of the frenzy of anti-choice legislation, especially as reproductive health victories these days are few and far between. (In a single, yet important victory among the slew of advances, a New Mexico Senate committee halted bills to increase abortion restrictions after the first trimester and to ban altogether abortions after 20 weeks.) What is most important to remember, however, is that each of these laws has real consequences for women and families living in that state.

You may recall the long back and forth over the various provisions of a restrictive Texas law (or perhaps you remember State Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster of this legislation in 2013). Nearly two years later, a recent Guttmacher Institute study of “Women's Experiences Seeking Publicly Funded Family Planning Services in Texas” finds:

Although most women were not aware of the legislative changes, they reported that in the past year, they had had to pay more for previously free or low-cost services, use less effective contraceptive methods or forgo care. They also indicated that accessing affordable family planning services had long been difficult, that applying and qualifying for programs was a challenge and that obtaining family planning care was harder than obtaining pregnancy-related care. As a result of an inadequate reproductive health safety net, women experienced unplanned pregnancies and were unable to access screening services and follow-up care.

Such limitations on reproductive health care access compound with a variety of other policies -- such as low minimum wage and lack of access to earned sick time -- to create a perpetual system of injustice. Residents in many states in the southeast, for example, face not only some of the most restrictive reproductive health care laws, but also some of the worst gender wage gaps in the nation. The effects of these inequalities intertwine, ultimately posing an even bigger burden on millions of women and families—especially those low-income families struggling to make ends meet and to afford the health care they need.

As Reform Jews, we believe firmly in a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and to have safe, legal and affordable access to health care. All life is sacred in Judaism. An unborn fetus is precious and to be protected, but Judaism views the life and well-being of the woman as paramount, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life. As our tradition commands women to care for their own health and well-being above all else, we must continue to fight to ensure that all women and their families have safe, legal and affordable access to all health care services, regardless of the state they call home. Looking back to the national level, urge your Members of Congress to oppose dangerous restrictions on reproductive health care access!

Published: 3/20/2015

Categories: Social Justice