January 19, 2011

Do You Trust Women to Make Their Own Choices About Reproductive Healthcare?

The majority of sexually active adolescents and adults in the United States use birth control and are in favor of women being able to make their own reproductive health decisions. Despite this support, opponents of family planning and women’s rights have tried to assert themselves as the true moral voice — and have made political gains that severely threaten women’s health.

This year, as women’s health advocates celebrate the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women for Reproductive Rights and Justice has emerged as an opportunity to show our strength and claim our rights to the legal healthcare to which we are entitled.

The Silver Ribbon Campaign is the effort of dozens of organizations — including Our Bodies Ourselves — committed to prioritizing science over ideology and offering full support for reproductive healthcare; free access to birth control; and keeping abortion legal and accessible.

You can take part by spreading the word through Twitter and Facebook and by wearing a Trust Women Silver Ribbon from Jan. 22 – Feb. 22. Make your own or make a donation to one of the participating organizations to receive a ribbon.

At OurSilverRibbon.org, you can also share your story and stay up to date on action items submitted by partner organizations, including an effort by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California to make prescription birth control available without a co-pay. Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health is featuring an Abortion Provider’s Declaration of Rights that you can sign to show your support for the thousands of medical professionals who perform abortions.

Ellen Shaffer, co-director of the Center for Policy Analysis, and Dr. Sophia Yen, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, wrote a piece this week at the Huffington Post that lays out how politicized the right to reproductive healthcare has become and the various ways in which both the current administration and abortion opponents have restricted access.

Most adults use or have used birth control. However, even the best birth control fails one time in a hundred. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. At least a third of U.S. women have an abortion during their lives. Most adults believe that abortion care, a legal procedure. should be covered by health insurance as part of reproductive health services. 86% of employer-based health plans currently cover abortion. In these hard economic times, it is crucial that families have the choice whether to bring a child into the world.

But abortion has been stigmatized by a well-organized, well-funded minority movement, including extremists who provoke violent acts. Our reproductive health is used as a wedge issue, seizing on voters’ anxieties about the economy and social issues to claim support for the regressive, anti-woman, anti-self-determination ideology of the right.

We saw a pro-choice president sign laws restricting access to abortion in at least three different ways: In the health care reform law, an executive order, and a regulation on state health plans. Despite the obvious fact that contraception is prevention, the Administration felt compelled to convene a panel to determine if contraceptives count as preventive care.

87% of counties now have no abortion providers. The burden falls hardest on the most vulnerable.

In their conclusion, they note that those of us who trust women are the majority, and it’s up to us to demand our rights.

“Trust women” was a motto adopted by Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was murdered on May 31, 2009 by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. Tiller’s strong commitment to the ability of women to make their own decisions in consult with their doctors and families is a powerful and lasting legacy. Joining the Silver Ribbon is one step toward ensuring we don’t take any more steps back.


9 Responses to “Do You Trust Women to Make Their Own Choices About Reproductive Healthcare?”

  1. Jane Says:

    “Prioritizing science over ideology” ? Are you kidding? If you use Science, you’ve lost the battle. You need more “feelings” and less Science to continue to convince the world that you have every right to create a baby at will and then dispose of it at will because it’s inconvenient. Abortion is going down! And by all means… keep the pregnant women away from those sonograms! Question: Do those little women a pro-abortionist starts in their body have any rights?

  2. LMS Says:

    I respect the desire to spread the word about reproductive healthcare but I really wish you had chosen another color ribbon. Silver is already the color for disability rights advocacy and IMO, using this color for your cause contributes to undermining the visibility of disability advocacy because instead of associating silver with the disability rights movement, people will associate it with the women’s movement. This is also somewhat contentious because of the friction between the right to abortion (particularly the kind of of late term abortions Dr. George tiller provided) and the disabled community’s concerns about abortions based fetal anomaly. Perhaps you could fix this by acknowledging that silver is also the color for disability rights.

  3. Rachel Says:

    LMS – thanks for your comment – afraid OBOS didn’t choose the silver color for the multi-org campaign, but it’s definitely important for us to acknowledge that the color is in use already for another cause, including diabilities. My understanding is that silver is also used for traumatic brain injury, and possibly other issues in other countries. I’m not sure who the best contact would be for directly sharing your concerns, but I’ll try to find out.

    Wikipedia has a chart of awareness ribbons with colors and meanings at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awareness_ribbons if anybody is interested.

  4. Ellen Shaffer Says:

    LMS: Thanks for your alert. Per the list posted on the wiki page, there are multiple uses for colors symbols and names (there are 2 additional campaigns for reproductive rights that use the phrase “Trust Women;” the Silver Ribbon campaign is in touch with and working cooperatively with both). The Trust Women/Silver Ribbon month fills a need for a visible and vocal campaign. We certainly wish to be in touch with allies and determine how best to cooperate. I’ve asked OBOS to put us in touch. Thank you!

  5. LMS Says:

    Hi,
    thanks for taking my concern seriously. Another issue that I am concerned about is the most recent edition of OBO, published in 2006. I was really impressed that the 1998 edition counseled women not to buy into cultural stereotypes of the handicapped when making childbearing decisions. It talked about the concerns of people with disabilities as being legitimate and part of the many concerns that people of various minorities have about reproductive issues. I was very disappointed to see that in the 2006 edition, the statements about disability and eugenics had been removed, and readers instead directed to the organization’s website if they had a concern about disability issues. The book left in a short discussion about the issue of eugenics and racial tension. As a woman with a disability, I felt ostracized by this change and hope to see the issue of disability restored to its original place in the book.

  6. LMS Says:

    by “ostracized,” I mean I felt cut off from the issue of diversity that is strill reflected in the text in its discussion of racial issues. i felt that the change subtly said, “race is diversity, but disability is not.” It is important to send the message that race, disability, gender, etc are all part of diversity.

  7. Kiki Says:

    hi LMS, thanks for writing. I’ve been part of the editorial team for the past several editions of OBOS, including the one currently in production, due out in October 2011. We faced a lot of space constraints in 2005, as that edition was quite a bit smaller than the 1998 edition, and some of the content you mention was cut. But our recent single topic book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth (2008) has an entire chapter on prenatal testing that addresses the complicated issues raised by testing and underlying assumptions about disability. The new edition will also include some discussion of how emerging biotechnologies and the increasing availability and use of genetic testing affect how people with disabilities are perceived.

    You can read an excerpt from the pregnancy and birth book that includes the stories of two women who had prenatal testing, found out the fetus had some sort of disability, and made different decisions about whether to continue the pregnancy here: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/childbirthexcerpt.asp?id=79&chapterID=21. You can find additional content on prenatal testing and disability rights here: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=31&compID=43

    Thanks again for your comments. — Kiki

  8. Erin Says:

    Jane, I agree with what you wrote. The last I heard, the majority of Americans were opposed to abortion, and even more of them are opposed to having their tax dollars used to fund elective abortions. Furthermore, the majority of women who are post-abortive regret their abortions and may have emotional problems resulting from it.

    The right to life should trump all other “rights.” If we are talking about women’s rights here, then shouldn’t *all* females be granted the most basic right of all – the right to remain alive?

  9. Melissa J. Says:

    Jane and Erin, if we are to consider “feelings” when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, I would direct you to a new psychological study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2011/01/31/index.html — which shows definitively what most studies have already indicated: there is no “post-abortive regret.”

    And Erin, as far as Americans being “opposed to abortion,” the latest Gallup surveys (http://www.gallup.com/poll/122033/U.S.-Abortion-Attitudes-Closely-Divided.aspx) show that close to 80% of Americans believe abortion should be legal, at least in certain circumstances. Those who identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice” has remained virtually equal for the past 12 years — but that is very different than when they are asked about the legal status of abortion — which is the point of reproductive “rights,” as opposed to an individual moral stance.

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