Stand up for choice
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In the closing days of 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law that made national headlines. Was it a jobs bill to help thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians, as he promised when he ran for governor?
No. Gov. Corbett signed a bill that singles out abortion providers and imposes on them politically motivated rules that could shut down their health centers.
Leading medical organizations and advocates, including the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, oppose the costly, burdensome and unnecessary structural and staffing changes required by the legislation.
What will it do? It will require freestanding clinics that perform abortions to comply with the same safety standards as freestanding outpatient surgery centers, which include requirements for wider hallways and doorways, bigger operating rooms, full-time nurses and more.
None of these requirements will enhance patient safety. What they will do is make it even harder for women to access abortion care in our state -- where 82 percent of counties already do not have an abortion provider.
If you're asking yourself why our governor and legislators are spending their time attacking choice after pledging to focus on immediate challenges, such as the economy, you're not alone.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not an isolated case; it is part of a disturbing trend. We are one of 26 states that enacted a total of 69 anti-choice measures in 2011 -- that's only one short of the record of 70 in 1999.
The landscape in Washington, D.C., is no better. This year, the U.S. House of Representatives took eight recorded votes on choice-related issues -- the highest number since 2000.
The House voted to eliminate the federal family planning program that provides thousands of Pennsylvanians access to contraception, cancer screenings and other basic care. It also passed H.R. 358, which would allow hospitals to refuse emergency abortion care to women who might die without it. H.R. 3 could force rape survivors to prove to the IRS that they were assaulted.
It's infuriating that 11 of our state's 19 members of the House voted for all of these far-reaching and insulting measures.
The Republican presidential candidates have expressed extreme anti-choice positions, as well. And, while the best way to reduce the need for abortion is to increase the availability of contraception, these candidates want to make it harder to access birth control. This is absurd and way outside of mainstream values.
Even former Gov. Mitt Romney, the so-called "moderate" in the Republican presidential primary field, wants to outlaw abortion and defund Planned Parenthood and the federal family planning program. The words "Mitt" and "moderate" don't belong in the same sentence.
Sunday we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Given the extreme agenda unfolding in the states and in Washington, it is critical that the majority of Pennsylvanians who support a woman's right to choose stand up to support this constitutional right.
Roe represents the fundamental values of freedom and privacy. In the 39 years since this landmark decision, the variety and level of women's achievements have reached unprecedented heights. The Supreme Court has observed that the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by our ability to control our reproductive lives.
Abortion is never an easy choice for women who struggle with the decision on whether to carry a pregnancy to term. We acknowledge the complexity some of our friends and neighbors feel about this issue. Yet we all know that no one knows the situation of every woman who considers an abortion -- and that's why we support each woman's right to make this decision without interference from politicians.
This month, politicians in Washington and Harrisburg will start where they left off in 2011 -- attacking choice. We must speak out.
If you have a Facebook page, post a story about these attacks on women and our reproductive health. Register your opposition to this intrusion into women's personal, private decisions. I promise you won't be alone, and you will inspire others to display their pro-choice values in a similar way.
Find out where your candidates for Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly stand on choice. If you get a chance to meet them, ask about choice and press them on their records.
As a former state legislator and candidate for statewide office, I can tell you that these actions can make a difference. It is absolutely vital that elected officials who do not share our values and priorities be held accountable.
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Where are the liberals? New York Times columnist David Brooks says they're hard to find because no one trusts the government anymore to implement even their most worthy of policies.
First Published January 20, 2012 12:00 am