> Fight for the world you want!
By Louise Melling
Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
Thirty-four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, significantly expanding the ability of women across the country to decide when and whether to become a parent. The decision, while immensely important, was only one step in this country’s journey to true reproductive freedom. Three decades later, we still have a long way to go. The world we want includes access to safe and legal abortion care, secures our right to have children when we are ready, and supports programs that foster healthy families and healthy lives for all.
The decision when and whether to become a parent is one of the most private a person can make and one that has a profound affect on all aspects of our lives. To participate fully in society, we must be free to answer for ourselves whether we are ready and capable of being parents. To achieve this world, we must continue to strive for reproductive freedom for everyone.
Supporting the right to have children: In the world we want, women, men, and families have the support they need to maintain healthy lives, healthy pregnancies, and healthy families. Reproductive health care is basic health care. Women have the support they need if they want to have children, including prenatal care and health care for their newborns. Moreover, lesbian, gay, and single parents are supported in their efforts to adopt or bear children. All parents – regardless of sexuality, income, ethnicity, or immigration status – are equipped with the means to care for and educate their children and provide for their families. And the environment in which we live and work is safe for our health and families. In the world we want, people are given the tools and education they need to build and maintain healthy lives.
Ensuring the right not to have children: In the world we want, all women have meaningful access to birth control and are able to obtain an abortion if and when they need one. Contraception and abortion are part of basic health care. Unfortunately, in the world we live, we see a growing disparity between the ability of rich and poor women to prevent unintended pregnancies and obtain abortion care. According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, in 2002, 16.8 million women needed publicly funded contraceptive care and yet only 6.7 million received such services. Moreover, for the past 30 years, nearly as long as the right to abortion has existed in this country, Medicaid has denied, with few exceptions, poor women abortion coverage in its otherwise comprehensive health care program for low-income Americans. The result: women already struggling with scant resources are not given the support they need to prevent unintended pregnancies and are forced to continue a pregnancy against their judgment about what is best for them, their health, or their families. In the world we want, this two-tiered health care system vanishes, access to health care becomes universal, and funding for birth control keeps pace with the need.
Educating for healthy lives: In the world we want, the government puts resources into programs that offer real information for real lives. Government supported sexuality education gives people the information they need to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex, relationships, and family planning. It encourages teens to abstain from sex but also gives teens who become sexually active the know-how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and prevent unintended pregnancy. As a study just published in Public Health Reports makes clear, engaging in sex before marriage is the cultural norm and has been for decades. Federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs ignore this fact. They fail to give teens information to make healthy decisions about sex, including how to protect themselves if they are sexually active. That the federal government has supported this charade to the tune of more than one billion dollars over the past decade is foolhardy at best.
Realizing the world we want: The world we want meets the needs of real people working to build a life for themselves and their families. On this 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let us work together to make the world we want a reality. Ask yourself, what are the cornerstones necessary to build the world that you want and then start working toward these goals. Join the ACLU, contact state legislators and members of Congress and urge them to support issues affecting reproductive rights, or write to your local paper about reproductive rights issues in your community. Make your voice heard, and get other people talking. Start asking friends and family about their vision for the world they want. This is what we are fighting for and the world we want. Join us in making this world our world.
PREVIOUS ROE V. WADE ANNIVERSARIES
> Critical Times: On the 33rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
> On the 32nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Question of Whose Moral Values
> Keeping Abortion Safe, Legal, Nobody Else’s Business But Your Own
> Roe v. Wade 30 Years Later: A Right Curtailed
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