Councilors defend abortion

Councilors defend abortion

State Sen. Gayle Goldin and Rep. Edith Agello have introduced the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2017, currently under consideration by the General Assembly. Given existing threats to reproductive sovereignty at the federal level, the Act ensures that the right to abortion remains safe and legal in Rhode Island. It codifies into Rhode Island law the basic tenet of Roe v. Wade: the state shall not interfere with a woman’s right to prevent, commence, continue or terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability. Similar bills are moving across the country (a related bill just passed in Delaware), and are designed to enshrine existing protections for a woman’s right to choose should federal protections be rolled back.

We have heard from opponents that there is no “urgency” on this issue – that federal law exists, and that it is sufficient. With this analysis we disagree. In the face of an openly anti-choice president, Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and an eight-person, split Supreme Court, there is real danger that such protections may be short lived.

For us, contemporary threats to choice are solemn reminders of what often happens when women lack access to safe and legal abortions.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of illegal abortions in the U.S. ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. Today, abortion is one of the most common clinical procedures in the country, and one of the safest: the death rate is only .6 per 100,000 procedures.

Further, timely abortions reduce the risk of complications. In 1970, one quarter of abortions in the U.S. occurred at three months of gestation or later. However, in 2009, according to the CDC, nearly 92 percent of abortions were performed within the first trimester (and 64 percent at under two months). The WHO defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy performed by someone lacking necessary skills, or in an environment that does not conform to medical standards, or both. Unsafe abortion is common where abortion is illegal. Worldwide, nearly half of all abortions are unsafe, and 98 percent of unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. In countries where abortion is unsafe, it is a leading cause of maternal mortality.

Furthermore, restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America — regions in which abortion is mostly illegal. By contrast, the rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is broadly protected. Access to abortion, especially when it is part of a broad menu of reproductive healthcare, is correlated with fewer unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

The message in all this is clear: legalization permits for safer, healthier procedures that make for healthier women. Outlawing abortion does not make women safer – it endangers them.

As women and as Democrats, we believe that a woman’s medical decisions must remain between herself and her provider. As Democrats and as women, it is our responsibility to protect our constituents, and to ensure that Rhode Island law fully expresses our rights. We believe that autonomy over our own bodies is crucial to women’s full participation in education and in the labor market – not to mention to our dignity as human beings. We strongly urge passage of the Reproductive Healthcare Act.

Meghan Kallman

Sandra Cano

Pawtucket

Both women are city councilors in Pawtucket