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Turning the Tables on the Abortion Fight

When it comes to healthcare, it is only women and women’s health that is legislated so forcefully.

 "Recognizing the long road ahead and seeing it through requires utilizing proactive legislation as well as voting for legislators who respect and trust women and their right to make their own health care decisions." (Photo: Shane Conneely/flickr/cc)

"Recognizing the long road ahead and seeing it through requires utilizing proactive legislation as well as voting for legislators who respect and trust women and their right to make their own health care decisions." (Photo: Shane Conneely/flickr/cc)

Forty five years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision declared abortion a constitutional right, far too many are ready to compromise and give up women’s right to abortion.  Columns in the New York Times, Daily Beast, Mother Jones suggest that it’s too late to save abortion access. Some even argue that Democrats should give up the fight for once and all, for the sake of focusing on other priorities.

Despite the gloom and despair painted by some, they have missed that, in fact, all is not lost for the abortion rights movement. Progressive lawmakers and activists alike are turning the tables back on abortion opponents through coordinated, proactive legislation introductions that protect and expand abortion access. These efforts also call out the hypocrisy and blatant sexism coursing through much of the discourse surrounding women’s reproductive health, essentially disregarding their right to make their own decisions about their own health care.

By ignoring all of this evidence, the cynics are buying into the false narratives spread by the anti-choice movement. They are ignoring the incredible work being done on the state level to fight back against the dismantling of Roe. On the 45th anniversary of Roe this year, the Public Leadership Institute and lawmakers in 25 states and three localities announced our renewed effort to “Protect Roe” by codifying the fundamental right to abortion into state law. Presently only 17 states have such protections in their constitutions. Last year, just as this egregiously  anti-choice administration was transitioning into the White House, lawmakers in thirty-three states and four localities introduced 133 pieces of proactive abortion rights policies. This represented a 64% increase over the previous year in 2016 when only 88 such measures were introduced in two dozen states. The Public Leadership Institute is working to ensure that this upward trend continues so that policies to guarantee and expand abortion access, repeal unnecessary restrictions, and regulate the false advertising strategies utilized by crisis pregnancy centers are a robust part of the public debate on abortion.

Playing political games with the reproductive health of women, such as what we just witnessed with the 20 week abortion ban procedural vote earlier this week in the Senate, has become the calling card amongst legislators of a certain ilk. They have a clear pattern of faking concern for the moral and physical welfare of women while simultaneously doing as much as possible to endanger their ability to access the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare. When it comes to healthcare, it is only women and women’s health that is legislated so forcefully. And it is only women’s health that is blatantly treated as a political issue, needing the consideration of largely male politicians who typically have no medical background or understanding of how dangerous legislation based off of junk science and propaganda is to the health of women across the country and throughout the world

Galvanized by the blatant sexism and disregard towards women’s autonomy, the reproductive and abortion rights movement has seized this moment to face down this particularly dangerous administration with strong, proactive bills and policies that will not only protect the right to abortion, but guarantee it as a fundamental right for all women. Access to all forms of healthcare is not a political game and should not be treated as such. By taking such a proactive stance, we can fight back against the aggressive meddling of anti-choice politicians and remove abortion from the table as a political bargaining chip or means of controlling women’s decisions.

Reinforcing that abortion IS healthcare by codifying Roe into state law is a step in the right direction to assure that the fundamental right to abortion is always guaranteed. Recognizing the long road ahead and seeing it through requires utilizing proactive legislation as well as voting for legislators who respect and trust women and their right to make their own health care decisions. These are the only real ways to fight back the “gathering threat” against abortion rights and save them once and for all. Standing down in the face of attacks or taking abortion off the table will never be viable political options and will never be tolerated as such.

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Gloria Totten

Gloria Totten

Gloria Totten is the President of the Public Leadership Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and leadership center that hosts the largest network of progressive lawmakers in the nation.

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