Audrey Mardavich rounds up the week in reproductive rights.

This week marks the 38th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade – decided on Jan. 22, 1973 – which upholds a right to privacy, via due process of the Fourteenth Amendment, in a woman’s decision to have an abortion, and that the right to the decision is guaranteed by the Constitution. Which, 38 years later, is a cause to celebrate!

The Center for Reproductive Rights interviewed its board members, staff, abortion providers, journalists and activists to ask “Why is Roe important to you?

The White House released a statement by the president on the anniversary:

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Not everyone in D.C. was celebrating the anniversary of this controversial decision; in fact, I heard that many small young men were pretty bummed out about it and planned a March for Life.

Mother Jones published an exceptional article about Harold Cassidy, the man behind the “re-branding of the pro-life movement”:

They have used the notion that women must be protected from abortion’s emotional impacts to justify a new round of laws (PDF) imposing mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods, or forcing doctors to dole out discredited information about health risks. (See “Are You Sure You Want an Abortion?”) They’ve also championed state-mandated counseling scripts informing women that what they are doing amounts to taking a life—so that, the argument goes, a woman doesn’t later find herself overcome with grief  over a decision she cannot undo.

However, Cassidy’s argument that women should be protected from abortion because of the mental health issues they experience after the procedure JUST MIGHT be flawed!  The Huffington Post reported on a new study published by The New England Journal of Medicine on the mental health of women after pregnancy versus after abortion:

Researchers compared the rate of mental health treatment among women before and after a first abortion. Within the first year after an abortion, 15 per 1,000 women needed psychiatric counseling – similar to the rate seeking help nine months before an abortion.

Researchers say women who seek abortions come from a demographic group more likely to have emotional problems to begin with. Statistics show that a large percentage struggle economically and they have above-average rates of unintended pregnancies.

I spoke with Amelia Long of the Lilith Fund, an abortion fund in Central and Southern Texas that is based on a reproductive equity model.  “If you don’t have resources, information, money, transportation or cultural support then there are all sorts of ways that you don’t have the choice to exercise your right to carry out a reproductive choice. We try to remove economic barriers to access,” says Long.

Lilith Fund is in touch with abortion providers in their service territory, and works to provide grants to women in need of financial help to carry out an abortion. In 2009, Lilith Fund provided 837 grants to Texas women. From their website:

Unfortunately, the 1976 Hyde Amendment cut off federal funding for abortion care, creating a “dual standard” where the “right to choose” exists only for those who can afford it. One in every three women has an abortion, in a country where 12% of women live in poverty. Many low income women now find a safe, legal abortion beyond their reach and are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion provider, was charged this week with the murder of one woman and seven newborn babies whose spinal cords had been cut with scissors. “This is an example of why having equal access to safe, affordable abortion care and education is so important,” says Long. “No one should have to think that this is their only choice.”

Which, is what it comes down to, folks. Choice. A woman’s right to her reproductive choice, upheld by the Constitution, and equal access to the resources she may need to make that decision.

If you care about women’s right to choose then TAKE ACTION:

1. Find out about your local abortion fund and support it by donating or volunteering.
2. Write to your representatives to let them know you want them to support pro-choice legislation.
3. Most importantly, as the late Dr. George Tiller said, “trust women.”

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