Growing up, I watched my mom successfully work a full-time job while being the utmost supportive parent to my brother and me. In elementary school, I learned about women like Amelia Earhart and Susan B. Anthony, who broke through the sexist barriers of their time. In high school, I admired women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malala Yousafzai, who have not only fought for women’s rights but have also, with odds against them, showed how strong and successful women can be.
Because of this I have always taken for granted the idea that women were entitled to the same opportunities as men. But now, as a college student, I am becoming more aware of efforts to not only stop our progress, but to reverse it. Women throughout history have fought and earned the right to control their own lives and make their own choices, including reproductive and abortion rights, and those hard earned rights are not to be taken away.
The 2016 election brought with it an administration full of people who have taken a hard line on women’s reproductive rights by being outspoken and adamant in threatening women’s access to comprehensive healthcare. The Trump administration is blatantly politicizing women’s bodies by using reproductive issues as a partisan wedge to drive the country apart and thereby impacting the protections and benefits that women have fought for for so long.
Vice President Mike Pence is known for his staunch opposition to abortion and newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh poses a new threat to women’s healthcare with the potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi explained, “Judge Kavanaugh’s [past] comments make abundantly clear that he will expansively rule against women’s reproductive rights and freedoms and move to destroy Roe v. Wade.”
Rolling back this ruling could be detrimental to women’s health. The Guttmacher Institute explains, “It is easy for Americans to forget that illegal abortion was common before the 1973 Supreme Court decision. ... denying women access to legal abortion does not prevent them from having abortions, but just increases the likelihood that they will resort to an illegal abortion carried out under unsafe conditions.”
The Center for Disease Control also examined national abortion data from three years surrounding the rulings and estimated that the number of illegal procedures in the country plummeted from around 130,000 to 17,000 between 1972 and 1974. The number of deaths associated with illegal abortion decreased from 39 to five in that same time period. The Trump administration’s aim to overturn Roe v. Wade will only produce costly and detrimental results to society.
Here in Utah, we are experiencing similar measures, with conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion groups aiming to make access to safe abortion even harder by proposing the HB205 bill back in March of 2018. This bill would have essentially criminalized doctors who perform an abortion if the sole reason for the abortion was Down syndrome. Although this bill was deemed unconstitutional, this is an indication of efforts to undermine access to safe abortion services to women.
Along with attacks on abortion, women’s reproductive rights are also threatened with Trump’s dedication of undoing the work of the Obama administration. Trump’s attacks on women’s health care coverage started with the signing of a bill to overturn protections from Title X. This takes funding away from critical reproductive, educational and counseling services related to family planning and contraception to 4 million people each year. The Trump administration also rescinded the part of Obamacare that required employers to provide contraception coverage. This would allow private businesses to opt out of covering reproductive health care, such as birth control, to their employees. These initiatives blatantly attack the health care rights for women and reverse the progress we have made.
While women have made great strides, we must remain vigilant and encourage our political leaders to be well informed about women’s health issues and to have the courage to create and protect policies that further our well being. We as young women can support this by continuing to advocate for these rights.
Emily Higgins is a student at the University of Utah and a communications intern at Alliance for a Better Utah.