October 24, 2014

REMEMBER THE LADIES | Her Body, Her Choice

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Over a year ago, the crowd sitting in the Texas Senate Gallery set aside typical decorum and started chanting. Women’s rights were on the line and they refused to be silent. The people quite literally took a stand (#standwithWendy) and made their voices heard in the political arena, as is the intended prerogative of American citizens. That night, the people of Texas helped Senator Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) successfully filibuster a bill that would severely limit women’s access to safe abortions. However, in the days that followed, the bill became law.

Yet while the Texas legislature negated the voices of its people, the United States Supreme Court did not. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled to allow a significant number of abortion clinics to reopen, reminding us that women have a right to take ownership of their bodies and their lives.

It is important to respect personal opposition to abortion. It is important to respect that through family discussions and teachings of faith we have all derived our own perspectives on the subject. And it is essential that we advocate for the ideal that every woman is afforded the opportunity to decide what is right for herself. As Davis said, “This isn’t about protecting abortion. It’s about protecting women … It’s about trusting women to make good decisions for themselves and empowering them with the tools to do that.”

Women who choose to get abortions do not make the decision lightly: They may decide to do so because they are still trying to graduate from high school, they may be unable to financially provide for the child, pregnancy might put their health risk or they are not at a point in their lives to become mothers or raise another child. Whatever the reason may be — and it is not for society to decide what is a valid reason — when abortion clinics are closed, women’s rights and safety are compromised.

“42 percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children).” It is already difficult for these women to make ends meet and, as a result, the cost of traveling hundreds of miles to a safe clinic may be more than they can afford. How is it fair to deny a woman access to a safe abortion because she cannot afford it and then require her to raise a child on those same limited finances?

For the women who can neither find the money nor the time to travel the extensive distances but want to move forward with their decision, they will turn to illegal and unsafe procedures. Prior to Roe v. Wade, the case in which the Supreme Court legalized abortion, “unsafe illegal abortions caused as many as 5,000 annual deaths.” If states continue to close clinics, as Texas intended to do, we will once again see those numbers rise.

Reproduction and motherhood are incredible, yet women should not be confined by this biology and this role. And by ensuring that women have access to safe treatments, we affirm that women’s lives are valuable regardless of whether or not they choose to have children.

Jennifer Mandelblatt is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She may be reached at [email protected]. Remember the Ladies appears alternate Fridays this semester.