On abortion being safe, legal, and rare

I like Hillary Clinton’s oft-quoted stance on abortion — that it should be safe, legal, and rare.

But if abortions are going to be safe, then they need to be performed by trained medical professionals. Legislation passed the U.S. House, however, would ban health centers from using federal money to train medical students about how to perform abortions. If they are going to be safe, they also need to be performed in a reputable location. Legislation exists and has passed legislatures countrywide, however, that attempts to shut down abortion clinics — either by re-regulating them as hospitals or surgical centers so they can’t afford to renovate and meet the new building standards, or by taking away their government funds in hopes it will require clinics to shut down.

If abortions are going to be legal, then attempts to so severely restrict abortion access need to end. Ohio’s “heartbeat” bill passed the Ohio House and is headed to the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans. To restrict abortions to a narrow window when most women wouldn’t even recognize they are pregnant — even in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger — is essentially banning most abortions unless you immediately take a pregnancy test upon missing your period, and even then you have to hope your body is producing the pregnancy hormones to register the test as positive. In South Dakota, there is only one abortion clinic and now they require a 72-hour waiting period and a consultation with a pregnancy crisis center before you’re allowed to get the abortion. Some want to mandate that life starts at conception, effectively making all abortions illegal.

If abortions are going to be rare, then attempts to de-fund family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood need to end altogether. Contraception takes up 35 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood performs — can you imagine how many more abortions women would seek if they didn’t have access to affordable, pregnancy-preventing contraceptives (or men without access to affordable vasectomies)? Pregnancy prevention is integral in preventing abortions. You can restrict access to safe, legal abortions, but that doesn’t mean women won’t seek illegal, unsafe abortions elsewhere — and that puts the mother in severe danger (though states like Ohio obviously aren’t concerned with saving mothers’ lives). Also, increased contraception use has proved most effective in preventing teen pregnancies — a solid argument for the importance of comprehensive sex ed as opposed to abstinence-only sex ed. Abortions should be rare because of better contraceptive use, not because of restrictive laws.

It’s unfortunate that the motto for many anti-choicers instead is unsafe, illegal, and never — often taken to extremes that would criminalize women for even thinking about abortion or miscarrying.

These bills’ transitioning from outlandish propositions to approved legislation showcases that however unconstitutional, illegal, or ridiculous these proposals are, they have a real chance at passing GOP-dominated legislatures. In fact, Amanda Marcotte recently outlined why Roe v. Wade is not safe from being overturned. Safe, legal, and rare is a reasonable goal, but anti-choicers are quickly creating barriers to reaching it — which is why it’s necessary to remain vocal with local, state, and congressional representatives when it comes to abortion and reproductive rights.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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