Forty-eight years ago today the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which established the legal right to an abortion across the United States. At that moment, a patchwork of state laws that too often restricted access to vital health care was swept aside.
For the first time, courts recognized that patients deserve the right to make private decisions about their own health care, including abortion. Despite having support from nearly three-quarters of Americans, a well-funded and virulent movement immediately began pushing back. Through subsequent court decisions, the dangerous and unfair Hyde Amendment, and a raft of state-level legislation, anti-abortion extremists began chipping away at the heart of Roe.
As we at Planned Parenthood celebrate the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, we are exiting one of the most infuriating and damaging lame duck legislative sessions in recent memory.
In the face of a pandemic, and only minutes before recognizing the importance of telemedicine in leveling the health care playing field, anti-abortion radicals in the Ohio statehouse fought to end its use in medication abortion. When they thought no one was watching, they put in place a bill seeking to force burial rites on those who have an abortion — not just adding financial burden, but furthering the shame and stigma that they believe patients must be made to feel.
Instead of expanding access to care, they fought tooth and nail to curtail it, over the objections of more than half of Ohioans, who to this day support access to safe and legal abortion.
For too many people in Ohio and across the country, abortion has become a right in name only. Accessing this right depends on your income, or your race, or the town you call home. Abortion will always be accessible for those with means — the rich, the powerful, and the influential. It already is inaccessible too often for those who live in poverty.
Twenty-four bills have been passed in the last 10 years in our state, leading to the closure of abortion providers, forcing people to travel longer distances to get care as well as imposing stigmatizing and unnecessary requirements. Together these conditions have placed an undue financial burden on patients who now have more travel cost, perhaps loss of wages, additional child care needs, and in some cases even a multi-day stay in a hotel.
Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade recognized the right to legal abortion, we recommit ourselves to its ideal rather than just its words. We will continue the fight for policies that create a world in which we have full control over our health, our bodies, and our lives — no matter who we are, where we live, or the color of our skin. We ask you to join us in this fight.
Iris E. Harvey is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio (PPGOH) and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (PPAO). Iris served on the PPGOH Board of Directors since 2011, and was board chair in 2015. Iris brings more than 25 years of organizational leadership in the public and private sectors. She comes to Planned Parenthood from Kent State University where she was the Vice President for University Relations.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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