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OPINION

The assault on women’s abortion rights

Some states are including abortions as ‘nonessential’ medical services, to be postponed indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrators participate in a rally for Planned Parenthood at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 5, 2017.
Demonstrators participate in a rally for Planned Parenthood at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 5, 2017.Jay Janner/Associated Press

As the nation deals with the coronavirus pandemic, women’s reproductive rights are under assault, with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas seeking to deny abortions. Legislatures in those states are top-heavy with men who will never face the dilemma women confront when faced with an unintended pregnancy.

These states included abortions on local public health departments’ lists of “nonessential” medical services, to be postponed indefinitely during the pandemic. This puts a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion in the same category with routine knee replacements and cosmetic surgery. Meanwhile, the ticking gestational clock that limits the time any pregnant woman has to exercise her right to choose in safety is ignored. Those who want to withhold a pregnant woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in the early stages push her later into the pregnancy, increasing her health risks.

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This is a dangerous game of state restrictions being rushed into law, although court challenges have been mounted by abortion rights support agencies. In Texas, the prohibition was recently modified by the courts to allow the so-called abortion pill. Still, it does not undo the nightmare of women who — for assorted medical and gestational stage reasons — require a clinical setting for medical advice and surgical services as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade since 1973.

Those of us who remember the days before Roe and have spent lifetimes fighting to get — and to keep — reproductive rights find it difficult to accept that, in this dark plague moment, when the whole world is locked in place, surrounded by fear, illness, and death, lawmakers continue to remain obsessed with blocking women’s private rights to legal medical care.

Whoever and wherever those lawmakers are, they seem indifferent to the tragic scope of their abuse of power as they try again to force women to have children they themselves will not have to bear.

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Forced pregnancy does not build good families: It destroys them.

Men and women like myself who have spent much of their adult lives advocating for and protecting women’s rights to safe and private maternal health care are exhausted and enraged at endless attempts to ignore the majority of Americans who wish abortions to remain safe, legal, and private.

This is not a plea for reason and compassion. It is a demand that lawmakers preserve Roe v. Wade and let women decide for themselves whether to have an abortion. It is also a question: Does the “right to life” movement have any humanity left?

Mary Ann Sorrentino is a columnist and former executive director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island.