Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood On Abortion

By Blue Carreker
[Blue Carreker is the Vice President, Public Affairs and Marketing for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. ]

The struggle to secure and maintain the right to safe and legal abortion cannot be separated from the struggle to secure a woman's right to reproductive choice-the right to decide when, and whether, to bear a child, free of economic, political, social or religious coercion. In fact, the movement for reproductive choice moved like a great wave through the 20th Century, bringing dramatic improvements to the lives of women, children and families.

Throughout history, women have experienced pain, suffering and discrimination as others have made decisions about when and whether we will bear children. Slave women were forced to bear and rear children by their masters, while their own families were torn apart. Poor women of color have been forcibly sterilized. Before legal abortion, desperate women used lye and coat hangers to end pregnancies they could not prevent and could not bear to continue. Young women with dreams were denied education and employment because they might get pregnant; and women were cast out in shame as victims of rape, incest and sexual violence.

pro_choice_washington_protesters.jpg - 73.31 K
Hundreds of thousands marched past the White House in Washington D.C. April 25th, 2004 in support of women’s reproductive rights. (Photo by Ray Feliciano)

Out of this history the pro-choice movement was born, led by women with a fierce determination to gain and hold fast the right to control our own fertility-a right most young women today take for granted.

Unplanned and unwanted pregnancies will not end if abortion is made illegal. A certain percentage of people will engage in sex outside of marriage, and as the time period between puberty and marriage lengthens, this number will increase. Coercion and rape will continue to take place inside and outside of marriage. Women who don’t have health insurance and cannot afford to go to a doctor will go without birth control, or will opt for a less effective method. Those whose lives are burdened by alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness will have trouble using contraception effectively. The best contraception methods are not 100% effective. And human beings who use contraception will make mistakes. The most desired pregnancies can sometimes go wrong, threatening the health, future fertility and even the life of the mother. This is reality.

Unlike our opposition, the pro-choice movement does not seek either to dictate or judge human behavior. Instead, we recognize that women, doctors and religious leaders have widely different beliefs regarding when human life begins, and whether and when abortion is acceptable. Clergy and people of faith from many denominations contributed critical support to the movement for reproductive rights and continue that support today.

To be pro-choice is, therefore, to accept that decisions about child bearing should be made by a woman, in consultation with her family, her doctor and her conscience and not by the government or politicians - and certainly not by religious extremists. As a compassionate society, we cannot and should not force women to bear children against their will.

To be pro-choice is to also fight for comprehensive sex education, so our young people learn to strive for healthy, respectful and non-coercive relationships and so that they know how to prevent unintended pregnancy.

To be pro-choice is to fight for access to reproductive health care for every individual, so that whatever decision a woman makes, she can have the best care available.

To be pro-choice is to work for affordable child care services, a living wage and family friendly work places so that families who want children are not frightened at the prospect of raising children without adequate resources.

To be pro-choice is to work to protect the right to safe and legal abortion because without it, families suffer and women die. As a direct result of the legalization of abortion in the United States, our infant and maternal mortality rates plummeted. Around the world, when women and families have access to voluntary family planning and legal abortion, we see major improvements in the health and stability of families. But thousands of women continue to die each year in nations where abortion is illegal.

Those who oppose abortion ignore these truths. Instead, they demand that all the world accept their particular belief that the life of a fertilized egg is equivalent to the life of a child and that the life contained in even a minute amount of fetal matter is, in fact, more important than the life and health of the woman in whose body that matter rests.

We live in a time when the ideologically driven pseudo-science of extremist groups finds equal exposure to that of well documented medical research. Despite the assertions of anti-abortion zealots, there is no medically established link between abortion and cancer. The majority of women who have abortions recover quickly and go on to live healthy and well adjusted lives. Very late term abortions remain an extremely small percentage of all the abortions performed and are most often performed when very wanted pregnancies go terribly wrong.

You and I may not always agree with the reasons that some women have for choosing to have an abortion-just as we may not agree with a woman’s reasons for becoming pregnant or bearing a child.

What I do believe is that behind each choice is a very personal story, and that therefore each woman must be able to decide for herself, in full understanding of her options, what she will do when faced with an unintended pregnancy. In the meantime, my colleagues and I will devote our resources to providing the education and medical care necessary to reduce unintended pregnancy and to bring us closer to the day when every child born is wanted and loved.

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood
259 Lark Street
Albany, New York
(518) 434-5678
(518) 434-8153 Fax

blue@uhpp.org
www.uhpp.org

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