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Restricting Abortion Access Is Not About Saving Children

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October 5, 2017

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 36) that, if approved by the Senate and the president, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks For many, this seems like a good thing; if you restrict how many abortions can be performed, then less people will have abortions.

This is wrong. According to Planned Parenthood, about 99 percent of abortions occur before the 21 week mark, and most abortions performed at 21 weeks or after are requested because of severe health concerns to the fetus or the pregnant person. The bill as it stands now, does make exceptions for abortions after 20 weeks if an abortion “is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.”

In the end, this bill will not decrease the amount of medical abortions performed in the US by very much at all. Why then is this bill even being considered?

If implemented into law, HR 36 would criminalize doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks. But obstetricians and gynecologists who perform abortions do much more than that; their clinics service people in need of STI testing and treatment, breast cancer screenings, birth control consultations and prescriptions, and much more. Imprisoning physicians who perform abortions removes important health care providers from the communities who need them.

This bill is just one piece of the agenda to reduce access to abortion services as much as possible. Since Roe v. Wade protects abortion from ever being completely outlawed in the US, anti-abortion activists seek to make getting an abortion as difficult as possible. In fact, my home state of Kansas has already implemented a law similar to HR 36, and has the most laws surrounding abortion of any state.

Restricting abortion often comes with the side effect of limiting the other reproductive health services that people need. Due to these restrictive laws on abortion providers and slashes to their budgets, some have to close, robbing the community they served not only of abortion services, but access to basic reproductive health care (which all people need, no matter if they are sexually active or not).

These anti-abortion policies disadvantage every person seeking care, but it’s especially hindering for people who live far away from abortion clinics. So many stopgaps are put into place to make people play the waiting game, reevaluate their decision to end their pregnancy. The state of Kansas mandates that a person seeking an abortion must wait 24 hours after meeting with the physician who will perform it, and they are required to undergo an ultrasound. When waiting 24 hours means traveling back and forth from the clinic and possibly forfeiting time at work, in school, or with their families, time is a luxury many cannot afford. This should not happen to people who need basic health care services, period.

Making abortion services harder to get also feeds into the thought that getting an abortion is immoral, and the people who seek them are careless and sexually promiscuous. This is part of the larger social stigma surrounding sexual activity and sexuality, especially women’s sexuality.

People who want to end a pregnancy come from all walks of life. Their sexual practices or sexual orientation does not make them any better or less worthy of needing an abortion. It is not up to me or you to decide if their reason to get an abortion is valid. It is that person’s decision in their own right, and other people’s political values should not influence the kind of health care they seek.

Finally, this bill will not benefit or save children like anti-abortionists believe it would.

If you care about the lives and welfare of children in the US, maybe we can start with the 428,000 children in foster care today who need loving families. We can start with making birth control more accessible and affordable so people can better control if or when they want to get pregnant. We can advocate for better funding for our schools so that America’s kids can learn and grow with the resources they need. We can support a health care system that allows parents and their children to address their health concerns where money isn’t the deciding factor for treatments.

Before we talk about the lives of potential children, let’s take care of the ones we have now.

HR 36 is a bill that would do way more harm than good if it passes in the Senate and is signed by President Trump, who supports it. Call your senators and let them know that HR 36 should not become law.

P.S. Senators Moran and Roberts, you’ll be hearing from me soon.

 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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