Roe v. Wade, which held that a woman has the right to make choices involving her body and pregnancy, was decided in 1973. This meant that a woman could safely terminate her pregnancy within a certain time period. Abortions pre-Roe were dangerous and life-threatening. To avoid shame and stigma, many young women would submit their bodies to back-alley butchers for assistance in terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
Changes in societal acceptance and norms and medical advancements have led to declining abortion rates since 1990. For example, in Indiana, from 2011 to 2014, the number of abortions declined 14 percent and has continued to decrease. And today, bearing a child out of wedlock does not carry the stigma it used to. Women can become pregnant with the aid of a physician and make the deliberate choice to be a single parent. Women, while earning less than men, now can make a livable wage that allows them to support themselves and their child(ren).
Changes in birth control and its availability (thank you Planned Parenthood) have been a crucial life changer for many women. Married and single women have been able to avoid pregnancy at an increasing rate as birth control has become more effective and available. The morning-after pill has further reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies.
But even women who take every precaution available to them sometimes find themselves confronted with the dilemma of choosing. Anti-choice fanatics make it sound as if women choosing to have an abortion make that decision lightly. Such thinking demonstrates a coldness that is surprising among those individuals who profess to oppose choice on religious grounds. Women who undergo the procedure think about the possibilities long after they are no longer of child-bearing age. It is a choice that carries with it a lifetime of “what ifs.”
But the most important part of the abortion debate often gets lost in the semantics. It is not a case of being anti-abortion or pro-abortion but rather whether one believes it is a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. It is a matter of choice.
Now, as we contemplate a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court, many fear that the court will declare a woman no longer has a right to choose. My fear is that a woman’s right to choose will die the death of a thousand cuts by the Indiana Legislature.
If the court takes a more conservative turn, states will likely be granted more power to regulate the abortion process. The more difficult it is to get an abortion, the more the ability to choose declines. It is one thing to say that a woman has a right to choose whether she will carry a child to term and a completely different matter if, due to bureaucratic entanglements and steep legislatively mandated requirements, a woman is prevented from making the choice to terminate her pregnancy because it is impossible to find a provider who can provide a medically safe termination.
We must do all we can to protect a woman’s right to decide what will happen with her body. If you support a woman’s right to choose, then the most important vote you will cast this November is for your state senator and representative. If you oppose a woman’s right to choose, focus your energies on making effective birth control accessible and affordable and developing programs that support unwed mothers and children of single parents.
But do not effectively remove a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. The choice is hers—not yours. It is the choice she must live with.•
Click here for more Forefront columns.
Celestino-Horseman is an attorney and represents the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus on the Democratic State Central Committee. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.