Leave reproductive rights to women
When the Pill was first introduced, controversy arose as it was pinned to the reason behind the sexual revolution. For the first time, women were given the choice to separate sex from procreation. Women were able to be proactive in their own reproductive health. They were no longer controlled by the fear of pregnancy and could engage in sexual activity regardless of marital status. The Pill became associated with promiscuity and was cited as the reason behind the sexual revolution. The Pill and other forms of contraception empowered women.
In 1973, Roe V. Wade reinforced women taking active roles in their reproductive health by giving them the right to have abortions. However, these milestones in women’s reproductive health remain challenged. Four decades later, reproductive rights continue to be contested. Women’s reproductive rights include components such as access to birth control, access to quality reproductive healthcare, and most importantly, access to education and the right to make informed choices. Abortion is often the first reproductive right that comes under fire, but other reproductive rights continue to feel the repercussions. Women’s empowerment dwindles toward oppression as more restrictions are placed.
Earlier this year, controversy arose when the Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would not fund breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood affiliates. Susan G. Komen quickly overturned its decision when backlash resulted. Although Susan G. Komen agreed to continue to fund Planned Parenthood, it remains evident women’s productive rights continue to be undermined. Abortion is the first right brought to the forefront even when other reproductive rights are involved. Women continue to be disempowered as decisions over their bodies and health are given to other political, religious or corporate entities. A woman’s body is used as a political weapon and continues to be a critical issue that arises in political campaigns and legislation.
In a recent ruling in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas will be allowed to cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because of its association with abortion: It is the largest provider of abortion services in the state. Planned Parenthood provides preventative services such as cancer screenings, birth control and well woman exams — 95 percent of funds from Planned Parenthood go toward providing health care services to women.
Decisions about women’s bodies’ continue to be left in the hand of lawmakers who are often out of touch with the reality many women face. Legislators continue to enact restrictions on women’s reproductive health, which is a continuous oppression that assumes women cannot make logical and healthy choices for themselves.
The oppression begins in adolescence. This is exemplified in states such as Mississippi and New Mexico. Neither state requires sex education and have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Young girls are disempowered when their families or schools are not able to educate them about their bodies or sexual health. Stigma and embarrassment remains in sex education, but it is lack of knowledge that reinforces oppressions. There is more focus on maintaining status quo, which includes limited sex education.
The continued debates and policy changes concerning women’s reproductive health challenge decisions made decades ago. Abortion is the most contested of women’s reproductive issues, but contraception and education do not remain free of scrutiny. Empowerment of women in reproductive rights is regressing in a time where we should be progressing.
Stephanie Hernandez is a first year social work graduate student.