Nearly 50 years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision gave women across the country the ability to make safer and more informed decisions about their reproductive healthcare.
The leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signals a move to overturn this precedent, fueled by efforts from Republican legislators to limit abortion access. If those lawmakers were truly concerned with a child’s life, they’d turn their attention to strengthening the social safety net for women so that children born from unplanned pregnancies are not casualties of the overburdened foster care system and prison pipeline. Their appalling attack on reproductive rights is nothing more than blatant hypocrisy.
I often hear my Republican colleagues claim to be “pro-life.” Yet, they only care about a baby until it is born. Then they disappear and abandon the children they claim to protect.
For many low- to middle-income people, the consequences of limiting reproductive healthcare options succeed only at regulating who can and cannot have an abortion. Because, let’s face it, those with the financial resources will still have access to safe abortions, creating a separate and unequal healthcare system.
Deciding if, and when, to have children is an intimate decision with lifelong consequences, not just for the families impacted, but for their communities. Losing access to family planning and reproductive health counseling will be devastating — increasing the burden and health risks facing poor women and women of color around the country. The U.S. already stands out among developed nations for its shockingly high maternal mortality rate, lack of paid maternity leave and limited access to childcare.
Still, states across the U.S. are intent on passing oppressive restrictions that would force childbirth regardless of the circumstances. Imagine forcing a 13-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather to bear the trauma of carrying a child for nine months. Imagine the pain of someone transitioning from female to male who has been gang-raped and forced to carry to term, or the anguish of a woman with seven children whose husband threatens her with domestic violence if she gets pregnant again. We cannot and will not go back to the days of back-alley and coat-hanger abortions.
And for my Republican counterparts intent on lecturing women about the possibility of adoption, don’t. It is willfully ignorant and insulting to dismiss the immense physical and mental health risks pregnant people face for nine months, let alone the pain that comes with childbirth.
Sadly, Florida has been one of the worst perpetrators of strategic moves to control a woman’s reproductive rights. Floridians have seen their access to abortions devastatingly hindered by laws like the recent 15-week abortion ban — the same Florida that mandates lessons against communism for children while taking a page from the authoritarian regime playbook and instituting communist-like controls over a person’s reproductive organs.
There are grandmothers in trailer parks and public housing singlehandedly raising grandchildren. But where are conservatives when grandmothers are struggling to buy diapers and formula? The only time I see them is on the floor of the House trying to take away grandma’s Social Security and attacking her Medicare and food stamps.
If our country will deny individuals the ability to make choices about their bodies, we must give them the tools to take care of those children. We need to expand positive reinforcement programs and address the challenges faced by our youth. That’s how we protect children’s lives — not by limiting people’s access to healthcare.
This November, we must vote to root out this hypocrisy. Voting is the only tool we have to elect people who understand that a woman’s body is her sanctuary, and she alone should make decisions about her health. We must vote for politicians who will respect the rights of our sisters, nieces, mothers, grandmothers, family and partners. The ballot box holds the key locally, in our states, and in Congress.
Frederica Wilson is the congressional representative for District 24.