The Future of Women’s Health: Reinstating The Right to Choose
June 1, 2023 | Isabelle Lawton & Meenakshi SV
Despite being referred to as ‘The Land of the Free,’ the rights and freedoms of women are slowly being stripped away from them in the U.S. Why is that the case?
Let's get into it.
The fight for women’s rights began over a century ago, but it is still an ongoing and grueling battle. Most recently, the Supreme Court's action of overturning the landmark case of Roe v. Wade is a setback for women's rights in America, despite the progress made towards achieving these goals.
Roe v. Wade, initiated in January of 1972, had protected abortion access for 60 years, based on the idea that abortion falls under the right to privacy stated in the 14th Amendment. After its overturning in June 2022 accompanied with a statement on the majority opinion within the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito stated, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” Our country saw swift action from many states, like Florida, Texas and Idaho to implement strict abortion bans motivated by personal beliefs. The legislature typically bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which leaves a small two to three week period to determine whether someone is pregnant or not due to menstrual cycles.
Across the nation, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has resulted in unnecessary challenges for women to access safe abortions, and led to distraught across the nation due to the lack of exceptions within the language of the bans.
To begin repairing the nearly irreparable damage caused by the actions of the Supreme Court, action is required, and we must start now.
Further, the three key provisions of the Women’s Health Protection Act are the following; expansion of access to healthcare and preventative care services, increased funding for maternal and child health programs, and addressing health disparities among marginalized groups that include women of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women in rural areas. It will protect abortion access by establishing a statutory right for medical personnel to provide abortion care and the ability for a patient to receive said care. Restoring these rights and initiating these protections now is crucial to regaining the rights that were stripped, as well as advancing their strength for the future.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Women's Health Protection Act of 2023 aims to restore the rights lost after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, protects access to reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion services, and ensures access to other forms of reproductive healthcare, such as contraceptives and prenatal care. Ultimately, this act aims to strengthen and protect women’s health and autonomy.
To cover lowered healthcare costs, the proposed legislation plans to increase access to family planning services which will, in turn, lead to economic growth. If lower-income households can get proper childcare, they will have the time to not only look for jobs, but put focus on their profession rather than ensuring their child is properly cared for or worry about raising a child they are not financially equipped to support.
The proposed WHPA, being a bicameral legislation, has to be passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to come into effect. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the sponsor listed on the bill, introduced the act to the Senate this past March, and it has since been placed on the Senate legislative calendar according to congress.gov. While the Democrats control the Senate, the House has a Republican majority – a serious handicap in this mission, considering their well-known pro-life agenda.
Regarding the bill, religious beliefs are also a factor in public support. Christian conservatives are among those who oppose it. There may also be concerns surrounding the implementation and enforcement costs of the act, as well as insurance claims taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers ,yet another concern the conservative side is raising. If the WHPA became federal law, it would override any related state law, backlash from states in which abortion is illegal.
As citizens, it is crucial to communicate with representatives who essentially decide our rights, especially one as important as the right to choose. You can contact your local representatives and congressmen to voice your support for the WHPA, made easy through actforwomen.org, which allows one to email lawmakers and express support. The same website also lists numerous organizations fighting for the cause, making the process for activism simple and accessible to all.
The passing of federal legislation such as the Women’s Health Protection Act is the first step in restoring reproductive rights of women in the United States. By additionally addressing the bans and barriers that have unfairly affected marginalized communities, this legislation will ensure the right to choose. It will stand as a crucial safeguard, assuring the fundamental right of women to make well-informed medical decisions about their own bodies. Its passage would affirm the right to bodily autonomy and encourage fostering a society that values and prioritizes the well-being of women, thereby paving a path for a more equitable and empowered future for all.