Staci Fox: Women's rights struggle
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 4:43 p.m.
The 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a powerful reminder that the struggle for women's health and safety continues. Deciding whether and when to become a parent is one of the most personal and important choices we make.
American citizens are blessed with incredible rights and freedoms. But the debate around abortion forces us to examine who we are as a nation.
Is America committed to promoting fundamental human rights? Are we outraged by attacks on our constitutional rights? Do we amend our constitutions to limit rights or expand them? Do we honor privacy rights of families? Do we respect women and their reproductive rights?
Through several court rulings, including Roe vs. Wade, Americans agree that the freedom to decide the number, timing and spacing of children, under what circumstances to have or not have children, and the right to abortion, are rights guaranteed in our Constitution. However, abortion rights are constantly under attack by a radical and vocal minority, while a silent majority is not honoring its commitment to defending that right.
Events over the past three decades suggest that we have been careless in our defense of fundamental human rights. Abortion continues to be used as a political ploy to divide the American people, rather than a rallying point for protecting the Constitution, a document that guarantees our freedoms, not one that limits them.
Will the two sides ever agree on the right to safe and legal abortion? Probably not. Instead of attacking this fundamental right established by the Roe vs. Wade decision we should join forces and work to reduce unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.
Recently, the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute released the results of a study that reviewed abortion rates around the world. It concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is legal and where it is illegal. Outlawing abortion and turning women and their physicians into criminals doesn't stop abortion, it just drives women to drastic measures.
This is a fact all too familiar to people in this country. Prior to Roe vs. Wade, we heard countless stories of women so desperate that they risked their health, future fertility and even their lives to obtain abortions, usually under horrible conditions.
The right to a safe and legal abortion is supported by the majority of Americans, but we also recognize that there is so much more our country can and should do to help women and couples prevent unintended pregnancies. Nearly 17 million women in this country need access to subsidized family planning services, but there is not enough funding to meet the need.
The CDC recently reported that teen birthrates are on the rise for the first time in 14 years. We owe it to young people to provide health and sexuality education that enables them to make lifelong responsible choices about relationships, respect and sexuality.
Thirty-five years after Roe, the struggle to protect women's health and safety continues, and it is time for the Florida Legislature, Congress and the current administration to stop playing politics with public health.
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