Women Must Have Health, Reproductive Choices | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Women Must Have Health, Reproductive Choices

Perhaps Roe v. Wade was ahead of its time, or late in coming. Regardless, abortion has been legal in the U.S. for decades and to reverse it would mean reversing women's rights. Members of the religious and political right have made it clear that this is their goal, but because the majority stands against them, they know they can't win a frontal assault on the Constitution. So, they've focused on a state-by-state legislative strategy of making access to legal abortion and family-planning services nearly impossible for the poor.

In their fervor to make legal abortion services possible only for wealthier people, they also end up fighting against education and contraception programs that are proven to seriously curtail unwanted pregnancies—and, thus, demand for abortions.

The government doesn't fund most voluntary abortions, but the myth that they do fuels the calls to defund the (non-abortion) work done by such organizations. The anti-Planned Parenthood crowd has gained more traction than ever before and looks to yank the country back to 19th-century reality. Judges and state Legislatures around the nation are divining all sorts of ways to dictate to what extent a woman can control (or lose control of) her biological right to reproduce or not.

In March 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the cases of religious nonprofit organizations that object to providing insurance benefits to women under the terms of the Affordable Care Act that allow them access to contraceptive methods on the grounds that management's religious views trump their employees.

The roots of resistance to abortion and contraception hail back to a time when women were allowed no role other than "mother" with few rights beyond her own home. But it's 2015 now, and times have changed. Millennials aren't getting married as fast or as often, and the fertility rate of the U.S. has been declining since 2008.

At the same time, contraceptive use is at an all-time high. With more than half of pregnancies categorized as "unintended," meaning mistimed or unplanned, women are beginning to realize, regardless of religion or political party, that science has provided a way to make family planning an actual reality—much thanks to contraception (and abortion when needed and chosen).

Is this a threat to the traditional American idea of a family? Maybe to the 19th-century ideal where many women gave birth 10 times or more and often died young due to health issues. It's past time to update our ideas of reproductive justice for women. Thanks to the women's rights movement and several waves of feminism, women have made immense gains in the workplace and society. Contraception allows them to plan when and with whom they would like to have a family. This only works, however, when women have access to the right kind of birth control for their needs.

Access is a problem in this state, and for those adamantly opposed to abortion—which is their right—the obvious, if not easiest, fix would be to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place, and for many women that means easier and affordable access to contraceptive options.

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