Abortion access shouldn't just be for the rich — every woman deserves the choice

Abortion access shouldn't just be for the rich — every woman deserves the choice
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Tough choices. Most of us have had to make tough choices at some point in our lives. That moment when you look at your paycheck and count down the next week, two weeks, three weeks of bills that are due, wondering how you might stretch each dollar to make it through the month. And when it doesn’t add up, deciding which bills you must pay, what necessities you must buy and what you will give up in exchange.

More than one in eight women and more than one in three single-mother families in America are poor. These women wake up every morning facing tough choices — do I spend more time with my children or work overtime to make sure the electricity is not cut off?

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Do I pay for birth control or that dental exam my child needs? These ultimatums only get tougher when women are denied the help they need to make responsible and moral reproductive choices — including the right to seek an abortion if and when they face that decision. 

 

I saw this happen in my home country, Ireland, where women are still forced to either pay to travel elsewhere for abortion services or proceed with an unplanned pregnancy. And they are told by the Catholic hierarchy that contraception is immoral.

I saw the impact these restrictions had on Ireland’s poorest women, condemning them to circumstance in which they faced a daily struggle of uncertainty and tough choices. 

Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress 41 years ago today, low-income women across America are similarly denied the right to access an abortion. The Hyde Amendment specifically targets America’s poorest women, denying health coverage for abortion care to women who rely on federally-funded insurance.

So while in theory Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land — and abortion is legal in America — in practice America’s poorest women are often unable to exercise that right.

As a Catholic, I feel compelled to speak out against this injustice. I believe firmly in the primacy of individual conscience — that unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes you cannot dictate what is ethical and right for them. That we should care about that woman facing tough choices and promote public policies that allow her the freedom to choose what is in her best interest and would strengthen her wellbeing.

That is why in good conscience, I support public funding for abortion. I welcome proposals to undo the injustice of Hyde and similar restrictions to public funding for abortion at the local level — from Illinois House Bill 40 to the “Medicare for All” proposal under consideration in Congress. 

When we take away a woman’s choices about her own body, we hamper her ability to make sound decisions for her and her family. We force her into tougher bargains to make ends meet. We threaten her capacity to thrive. We hurt her ability to raise children that are healthy and resilient. And we perpetuate cycles of poverty.

That is why Catholics for Choice introduced the In Good Faith campaign to lift up the voices of Catholics who believe in social justice and that all women should have equitable access to reproductive care — including abortion. We know that women face tough choices; and we should trust them to make their own moral decisions with dignity and respect. We urge Catholics and others to join us in supporting every woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in good faith.

Jon O’Brien is the president of Catholics for Choice