Earlier this month Bernie Sanders and 16 other Democrats in the Senate have introduced a “Medicare-for-All” single-payer health care bill that would offer comprehensive reproductive health care and expand access to abortions by eliminating the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion services.
In stark contrast, this week, House Republicans are set to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would make it a crime to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is just one in a number attempts by Republicans to limit abortion access and infringe on the rights of women. This despite polling which suggests that nearly 60% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and nearly 70% of Americans believe Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.
In these vastly different positions we see clear evidence of a deeply divisive, highly politicized issue. But I also see something else. While the Sanders bill is co-sponsored by several high-profile female senators, the house bill is drafted and sponsored by two white men. It was the same story with the failed Graham-Cassidy health care bill that would have massively restricted access to abortions. As Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “maybe if we added a few more women senators.”
Where are women’s voices? Where are women’s stories? Where is the real conversation about why women seek abortions and what their experiences are like? This issue has gotten so politicized with such intense focus on litigating the minutia of what is a “good enough” reason to terminate a pregnancy, that we have lost site of what this is all about – women’s health.
When I started Maternity Matters I vowed to speak to the uncomfortable, and the reality is that speaking honestly about abortion makes a lot of people uneasy. But it is an important aspect of women’s health and therefore something we must do. From my vantage point as a psychologist specializing in the perinatal period, abortion is something I talk about frequently with my clients. This may seem surprising but abortion is a women’s health issue affecting people of reproductive age. Therefore, it is just as much a part of my work as is supporting women through pregnancies carried to term, and working with families in the postpartum period.
Whether it be a pregnancy termination due to medical concerns about the fetus or mother, or an elective abortion motivated by any number of reasons, we need to honor these stories and the choices women and families make. Over the next few weeks, I intend so do so. Please stay tuned.