Women’s health care under attack

Roe v. Wade 39 years later

Posted: January 22, 2012

Jan. 22 marks the 39th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This Supreme Court ruling guaranteed that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a woman's right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy to term. The decision is one of the most emotional and difficult a woman will ever make, and she must be free to decide. Yet, today, lawmakers across the country remain committed to denying women that right by rolling back the only law that keeps abortion care safe and legal.

Most Americans trust women to safeguard their own health and plan their families, and they oppose efforts to overturn Roe. That has remained true for four decades. However, in 2011, many politicians who ran on promises to focus on jobs and the economy instead spent their time seeking to compromise women's health. They passed bills that not only restricted access to abortion care, but also to basic health-care services, including family planning, breast exams, and cancer screenings.

Last year, we saw an unprecedented number of legislative attacks against women's health care. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, lawmakers across the country introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health- and rights-related provisions, and 135 of these measures were enacted in 36 states. Of those, 92 were abortion restrictions passed in 24 states, tripling the number from the last record-high year, 2005. We're expecting 2012 to be a year of increasing hostility against women, as elected officials focus on reproductive health as a diversion from America's real problems.

Pennsylvania lawmakers followed in the footsteps of their counterparts in Mississippi, Kansas, and Texas by wasting time and taxpayer money creating barriers to care. They introduced more restrictive bills in one year than were offered in the last 20 years combined. These attacks, and the ones to come, could drastically hinder a woman's ability to have an abortion.

Last month, Gov. Corbett signed Senate Bill 732, a set of politically motivated regulations meant to end safe abortions in Pennsylvania. Be perfectly clear: This bill has nothing to do with patient safety; its intent is to shut down high-quality reproductive health-care providers and to make abortion care all but illegal in this state.

Since many abortion facilities in Pennsylvania also provide other much-needed services, these regulations jeopardize access to preventive health care, including birth control, pap tests, and screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections. It defies logic to stand in the way of family-planning services while trying to eliminate abortion.

Unfortunately, some who oppose abortion too often also oppose commonsense, preventive measures that make abortion less necessary.

The Roe anniversary serves as an important reminder to reaffirm that abortion is a safe, legal procedure that must remain available to women as part of comprehensive health care. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said, "The greatest threat to freedom is an inert people." As the nation's leading reproductive health-care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood and its millions of supporters and activists are aggressively working to stand strong against attacks that threaten to erode the promise of Roe v. Wade.

Rational people understand the reasons behind restrictive legislation, and we commit ourselves to reality-based approaches to the real needs of our community. Women deserve high-quality, affordable care, and it's our responsibility to ensure that they are treated respectfully and cared for properly. Anything less would be irresponsible.

Dayle Steinberg is president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. Contact her via www.ppsp.org.

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