The 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade serves as a compelling reminder of our need to stand together to protect access to women’s health care in our country. With an unprecedented number of attacks by an unfriendly Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court poised to hear a Texas case directly challenging Roe, the stakes for safe and legal abortion in this country are higher than ever. As the most trusted provider of reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is committed to delivering the full range of safe, compassionate health care services, and fiercely advocating for a woman’s right to access care without government interference.
When politicians restrict access to safe, legal abortion, the consequences to women are devastating. Since the implementation of the Texas Legislature’s 2013 House Bill 2, which cut access to providers of safe abortion from 60 to 10, researchers at the University of Texas estimate that between 100,000 to 240,000 women have tried to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance. Self-inflicted trauma and consumption of chemicals are just two unsafe measures women are taking to end their pregnancies. What is happening in Texas should leave no doubt that restrictive abortion laws are putting women’s lives at risk.
In the coming months, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling on HB 2’s restrictions. If upheld, the 5.4 million women of reproductive age living in Texas will be left with only 10 health centers that provide safe, legal abortion. More troubling, a decision upholding Texas’ restrictive abortion laws would not only be devastating to Texas women, it would be a green light to states that are similarly positioned to further restrict access to care.
According to a recent report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute, state politicians have enacted 288 restrictions on safe, legal abortion since 2010, dramatically impacting the landscape for women seeking an abortion. In 2000, 31 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age lived in a state hostile to abortion rights. By 2014, that increased to 57 percent. Today, for the first time since Roe, a majority of U.S. women of reproductive age live in states that are hostile to their right to safely end a pregnancy.
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Although California has strong measures in place to protect reproductive privacy — it was one of the first states to legalize safe abortion before the 1973 Roe decision, then codified Roe in 2003 — our state is not immune to the onslaught of congressional attacks being waged on women’s health. In California, defunding Planned Parenthood would, for many women, mean losing their chosen provider and, in some areas, the only safety net provider in their community. Currently, there are 115 Planned Parenthood health centers in California providing high-quality care to 800,000 patients.
More than 90 percent of services received at Planned Parenthood health centers include lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, prevention, testing and treatment for STDs, as well as breast health services, pap tests, sexual health education, information and health counseling. According to the California Primary Care Association, California’s safety net providers do not have the ability to absorb the 800,000 patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for care in our state.
It’s outrageous and wildly unpopular for politicians to attempt to push through legislation blocking women’s access to health care. A recent Bloomberg Politics national poll found that 67 percent of Americans surveyed said the Supreme Court was right to rule that women have a constitutional right to abortion. The vast majority of Americans agree: abortion is a deeply personal medical decision that should be left to a woman and her family, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider. Politicians should not interfere with this deeply personal decision.
Jenna Tosh is president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Santa Barbara, Ventura & San Luis Obispo Counties.