Supreme Court Defends Abortion Rights

I am pro life. And pro choice. That is not a hedge or the statement of some fence-sitting position on the issue of abortion, but the conclusion I reached many years ago after much soul searching and anguish. It is a position I have had to walk out in the circumstances of my own family so it is far more than a philosophical speculation divorced from reality.

I do not know when life begins. Neither does anyone else. Therefore, I believe it safest to opt for the earliest stage of development which is conception or at least implantation. Therefore, I believe that any abortion takes a life or at least a potential life. That is a grave decision indeed.

Nonetheless, the only person morally able and responsible for making that decision is the woman in whose body this precious organism resides. Hopefully, this woman will have the counsel and support of the father, her parents, doctor, clergy and friends to help her make, and live with, that decision. Sadly, many if not most, do not. Sometimes Planned Parenthood takes the place of such familial presence and, in my experience, they do a wonderful job. In the case of my teenage daughter no pressure for abortion was applied. And no abortion was performed. Instead, we were blessed by my beautiful first granddaughter!

Of one thing I am certain: it is not the government’s responsibility to insert itself into the life of a woman seeking to make such an anguished decision or to make that decision even more complicated. That is why I support the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the state of Texas’ rules which threatened to reduce sharply the number of abortion clinics in that state.

Initially, the state’s argument that doctors performing abortions be required to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in case something went wrong with the procedure and which also would have forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery seemed reasonable to me to protect women’s health (which is another reason I am pro life — I am pro-women’s-lives!). But I am persuaded by Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion that the regulations are medically unnecessary.

He wrote, “the surgical-center equipment, like the admitting privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.” I am not completely happy with that opinion, but I am old enough to remember the tragedies of “back alley” abortions sought and received by desperate women before the days of Roe v Wade. If a woman decides to have an abortion, she will likely have one. The only question is whether or not it is safe and legal.

Let us cease the attempts to roll back a woman’s constitutional right to choose. Let us rather increase sex education, assure that safe contraception methods are easily available, support mental and emotional health care for all, guarantee equal pay for equal work for women, do away with the stigma of unplanned pregnancies and the misogynist assumption that such a pregnancy is “her fault” (as though there were no father involved!).

These, and other, measures will go a long way toward assuring that — as President Bill Clinton once said — abortions will be safe…legal…and rare.

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