Staci Fox: Congress still threatening a woman's right to choose

Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 1:44 p.m.

In January, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution protects the right of a woman to choose whether to continue a pregnancy to term or to have an abortion.

Yet, 37 years later we face the remarkable possibility that the United States Congress will enact health care reform legislation that singles out abortion from all other medical procedures, with unprecedented and unnecessary restrictions.

Indeed, these restrictions threaten not only to prevent women who will gain access to health insurance from obtaining abortion coverage, but could also result in women losing coverage they currently have. In effect these restrictions chip away at the rights that women and men have fought for and essentially move women backward rather than forward.

It is sad to me that some persist in making decisions for women and that we cannot simply trust a woman to make decisions that are best for her and her life circumstances.

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade we always seem to argue the issue of abortion. What the Supreme Court actually decided is that this is a private decision between a woman and her doctor. Not everyone agrees with a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, but that is the point: it should be a woman's decision.

We trust women to run our companies, provide treatment to our sick, teach our children and help raise our families. Why do we have such a difficult time allowing a woman to decide what is best for her?

In economic times such as these or during crisis such as in Haiti, women often suffer the most. When women can barely afford to make ends meet, they stop taking care of themselves in order to provide for others.

History has also proven that during times of crisis and disaster, women are often victims of sexual assault and increased violence. These are examples of when rates of unplanned pregnancies soar.

Why do we continue to fail to empower and support women who face such difficult and horrific situations? Does our government, or any other, have the right to restrict women, who may face an unplanned pregnancy in these situations, access to the full breadth of available options?

It is indeed disturbing, 37 years after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the private right to choose abortion, that our own Congress would enact health care reform legislation that isolates abortion from all other medical procedures, and severely hurts the ability of women to purchase health insurance that includes this coverage.

Planned Parenthood supports meaningful health care reform that expands women's access to health care coverage, but it must not come at the expense of coverage women currently have. It must not come at the expense of women.

Women deserve to have an equal seat at life's table and thus need to be able to make their own decisions, especially those regarding their health care. So, let's trust women.

Staci Fox is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Florida.

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