Her Right to Choose

This commentary was published in the October 15, 2015 issue of The Oklahoma Gazette.

For thousands of years, women have passed along secrets of how to end a pregnancy or how to prevent one. Until birth control, there was no sure defense against pregnancy; and until legalized abortion, there was no safe way to end a pregnancy.

Currently, in America, 99 percent of women in their fertile years will use some form of birth control, regardless of the roadblocks. An average of one in three women will have an abortion during their reproductive years, according to data from Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for reproductive health.

About half of pregnancies in America are unplanned, and of these, almost half are terminated. Specifically, Guttmacher Institute data reveals that out of roughly 4 million pregnancies each year, some 2 million are unplanned, and of these, about 800,000 to 900,000 are terminated. Planned pregnancies, of course, are happily awaited and received.

Before legalization, millions of women risked infection or even death seeking illegal, “back-alley” procedures. Women who could afford them have always been able to obtain safer care and often traveled to other countries.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision still seems wise and fair. During the first three months, the justices ruled, it’s her business. During the second trimester, the state may regulate in the medical interest of the woman. During the third trimester, the state may regulate “for the potentiality of human life” or may prohibit pregnancy termination procedures, with the exception of preserving the life or health of the woman.

Guttmacher Institute data also reveals that 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester. Third trimester abortions, though troubling, comprise just 1 percent of all procedures.

World population is above 7 billion and is expected to reach 9 or 11 billion this century. As human numbers threaten nature itself, it is paramount that adults have access to family planning services.

A full 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget supports health care and contraceptive services, serving millions of women. Only 3 percent of its budget supports abortion services.

Additionally, by federal statute, Title X of the Public Health Service Act, enacted in 1970, prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services. Regardless, some conservatives in Congress want to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s annual subsidy, which amounts to a third of its budget.

As an advocate for a broad spectrum of justice and peace issues, I have critically examined my support of the right of women to access family planning services, including abortion.

I oppose torture, the death penalty and avoidable military action. With a bachelor’s degree in biology, I am completely aware of the entire nine months of development from a fertilized egg to a whole person, the miracle of procreation.

My conviction persists that because women are the only ones who can become pregnant, women should have the authority to decide when to become pregnant and whether to remain pregnant.