Reproductive Rights are Human Rights

By Franchesca Ramirez, Summer Intern, ACLU of Pennsylvania

The state of Oregon has made recent headlines for its triumphant passing of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, a new law that ensures all residents of the state have access to health services, including family planning, abortion, and postpartum care. The act, proudly supported by the ACLU of Oregon, guarantees reproductive health care for all women, regardless of income, gender identity, or citizenship status. It represents defiance towards the Trump administration’s agenda and a beacon of hope for women in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, in backward Pennsylvania, the state legislature is considering what would be one of the most restrictive policies against abortion in our nation, Senate Bill 3. SB 3 shortens the length of time during a pregnancy that a woman is permitted to have an abortion and entirely bans a common method of the procedure.

Also in the state legislature is Senate Bill 300, which restricts funding to Planned Parenthood and, thus, limits the accessibility of reproductive health care, including contraception, for Pennsylvania residents who rely on their services. This bill seeks to defund health care providers that offer abortions, in effect, defunding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of these health services in the U.S. Planned Parenthood educates millions of people every year, offering knowledge and services for contraceptive care and preventing thousands of unplanned pregnancies. Unfortunately, there aren’t already enough other providers availing this knowledge and these services, so expecting them to absorb Planned Parenthood’s clientele is unimaginable. Informed family planning doesn’t just benefit individual families; it promotes the stability of the U.S. population. To protect reproductive rights is to honor the Constitution and protect the future of our country.

The reality is that millions of Americans would struggle without the information and preventative care necessary to plan their lives, possibly threatening their own health and the stability of their families. In this case, it wouldn’t be farfetched to predict that the number of abortions would increase access to contraception decreases.

Protecting reproductive rights is not a “women’s issue.” Reproductive rights are a human issue, like all other rights too often threatened by regressive policymakers. Stripping women of this liberty symbolizes a disregard for the rights of all Americans. It is not an issue that should be decided based on the selfish values of an elected few without consideration of the large populace they represent. Unsurprisingly, it is in Pennsylvania, the state ranking 48th in the country for the percentage of women in elected office, that this restrictive legislation is being considered. For too long, majority male officials in positions of power have applied their ignorance and short-term vision to policy affecting millions of people — particularly women, who have been historically underrepresented in society.

It is always necessary to put aside one’s own personal beliefs when making decisions that affect others. The issue of abortion is no exception. The best thing lawmakers in Pennsylvania can do is mirror the actions of Oregon’s legislators by voting to protect access to reproductive education and services, recognizing them as rights rather than ideological preferences.

Franchesca Ramirez interned this summer in the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg office, assisting the advocacy and communications departments. She is a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania.