Who Cares if Abortion Is Legal if It Is Inaccessible?

Who Cares if Abortion Is Legal if It Is Inaccessible?

My anti-choice friends in Kansas (bloody, bloody Kansas...) are proposing all sorts of exciting new restrictions on abortion, according to The Huffington Post, supposedly to discourage any doctor from performing second trimester abortions. Nearby, (as I mentioned last week) Nebraska introduced legislation to ban dispensing RU-486 via telemedicine, a common way to bring health care to rural areas. So one state doesn't want women to have early, non-surgical abortion access and the other doesn't want them to have access to legal abortions later. I see.

In Congress, anti-choice legislators have gotten punch drunk on their ability to stop women from getting legal medical procedures. According to NARAL, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced a bill that would force you and your family to pay more taxes if your health plan covers abortion, jeopardizing women's ability to buy private insurance with abortion coverage. Yep, the same people who supposedly love free enterprise and yell about government intrusion are intervening with the free market to control women's reproductive health. Is that all? No, of course it is not. Smith's little bill will make it even more difficult for rape and incest survivors who rely on the government for their health care to access abortion services.

DC vigil for Dr. Tiller --Keep Abortion safe and legalWill abortion still be legal? Sure. But if you can't afford an abortion out of pocket, good luck to you. If you have no provider in your community, well, that's your problem.

What's the consequence of these laws that stop women from accessing abortion? It's not that there are fewer abortions necessarily. It's just that they cost a lot more because women have to travel farther, and since most women who have abortions already have at least one child, they have to find child care for their kids while they are gone. They might have to pay for a hotel overnight. They might have to pay for additional unnecessary and even biased additional testing. To do so, they may have to skip meals or be late with rent or not pay their electric bills, which of course hurts their families.

Worse, they might wind up getting illegal abortions. The other big abortion headline these days is the doctor in W. Philadelphia accused of killing a patient and performing abortions after 30 weeks, including delivering fetus than cutting their spinal cords with scissors. Why did this happen? According to Daniel Denvir at Alternet because restrictions that prevent desperate women from getting earlier, legal abortions force them to turn to dangerous and gruesome alternatives. If anyone wants to understand the abortion issue as it is relevant to many women in the US (and, quite frankly, around the world), this is a must read article.

If you think abortion is morally wrong, that's fine. You have that right, just as I have the right to find it morally acceptable. You also have the right to not choose an abortion should you be pregnant. I won't force you to, even if I happen to think it is probably a better solution for some situations. However, the reality is that there always will be abortions whether or not they are legal and safe. Maybe restricting access to abortion causes a short-term victory for those who want to stop it all costs, but the long range cost is harm to women, sometimes fatal. For some people that will be an acceptable casualty rate. (After all, if a woman commits an immoral act like like having an abortion, she probably deserves to be harmed.)

I don't want to see women get hurt. Not from abortions, not from childbirth, and not from pregnancy. As I learned last week, more than 1/3 of pregnant women have complications during pregnancy and two women die every day from pregnancy complications and during childbirth. Everything we do in life has a consequence. It should be up to women, their consciousnesses, and their medical advisers which option is best for them, for whatever reason. Then they should be able to act on their decision without unreasonable restrictions.

Suzanne also blogs at CUSS and Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.

Photo Credit: Barb Howe.

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