By Zakya Hall
Note: Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their authors and not necessarily those of Penn Dems as an organization.
On Wednesday, Dayle Steinberg and Maggie Groff, two women who have devoted their entire careers to fighting for reproductive rights, held a discussion with Penn Dems about their work with Planned Parenthood. This conversation brought me back to one I had two summers ago.
One night, my friend and I got into a discussion about reproductive rights that lasted for over two hours. Of course, I tried to be as politically correct as possible, but once she began to defend a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion I had had enough. “Don’t you know that having an abortion dramatically increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer,” I said with authority. Taken aback, she explained to me that, actually, what I believed was false. After Googling ‘abortion and breast cancer,’ it was abundantly clear that abortions, in fact, do not lead to breast cancer. As someone who absolutely hates being wrong, I was embarrassed that I had been spreading false information. More importantly, as a teenage girl, I thought that it was important for me to actually learn about issues surrounding my health.
As it turns out, the far right has a bad habit of creating myths around women’s reproductive health (and many other issues, but that’s another story). This spring, Hobby Lobby argued that, as a closely held corporation, it should not have to cover certain kinds of contraception, like Plan B or IUDs, because these methods are equivalent to abortion and therefore go against their Christian values. In my opinion, as an employee of an arts and craft store, and not a Bible manufacturing company for example, a woman should not have to pay out-of-pocket for birth control because it is not her boss’s business. Furthermore, scientists have unequivocally disproved this notion; even the prescription labels for Plan B say that the medicine will not terminate an existing pregnancy. Yet conservatives continue to conflate emergency contraception with abortion. The repercussions of the Hobby Lobby decision were much greater than my minor embarrassing moment. In that case, a sizeable number of women in the workforce lost access to affordable contraception based on a myth. Last year, women saved an average $269 a year because birth control is now covered without a copay. For some women, paying for birth control is not an option.
Across the country, Republican politicians and conservative groups are unrelenting in their assault on not only a woman’s right to choose, but also her right to comprehensive health care. Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett supports legislation that requires a woman to receive an ultrasound before terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Furthermore, he wants to cut funding to organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide trusted health care and education to their surrounding communities. This not only affects women’s access to reproductive health care, but many women also depend on Planned Parenthood centers for other services, such as cancer screenings and other primary health care services.
Reproductive rights have played a major role in recent elections on both sides of the aisle, and legislation restricting a woman’s right to choose continues to become law in this country. Dayle and Maggie both agree that things are only getting worse. They could never have imagined that they would still be waging that same battles 31 years after Roe vs. Wade. Now, money that should be used to help women get access to services is being used to defend the right to those services.
People will always oppose abortion because, at the core of their being, they believe it is morally wrong. I understand that because I used to be one of those people. But what I can’t understand is that those who are perhaps most angry with a woman’s right to choose will do the least about it. They oppose safe sex education and access to affordable birth control, and, when a child is actually born, they refuse to fund services that help to build a brighter future for him or her.
Wednesday night reminded me, once again, why I vote blue. My sexual and reproductive health are too important, too vital, in my life to be left up to decision-makers whose policies are almost as wacky as those of Hank Essex, the man who has protested outside of Barnes and Nobles for the past decade.