Abortion care is part of our American fabric

Abortion care is part of our American fabric
© ANNA GASSOT/AFP/Getty Images

A court ruling last month in Oklahoma denied a woman access to the safest and most common form of second trimester abortion. If the law is allowed to stand, it will all but eliminate second trimester abortions in Oklahoma.

The ruling upholds a ban on a medical procedure called dilation and evacuation, despite seven other states blocking similar laws. It is a heartbreaking and a trespass into what should be a personal and private health-care decision between a woman and her doctor. And it follows the frightening trend of states trying to undercut the protection of Roe v. Wade, restricting when, where and how abortions are performed.

Physicians who offer abortions have been politicized by lawmakers and anti-choice radicals. Under such surveillance and restrictions, doctors are finding it almost impossible to provide health care without fear of breaking the law. 

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How are doctors supposed to care for their patients if they are restricted from doing their jobs by the politicians who never went to medical school? Doctors should not have to look over their shoulders in fear or worry for providing options to pregnant women who no longer want to be pregnant or cannot continue a pregnancy. Little by little, their decision-making power — and the decision-making power of the people they treat — is being stripped away. 

The court ruling from Judge Truong leaves the women of Oklahoma and neighboring states like Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri walking on eggshells, wondering whether they will have to travel even further to obtain an abortion. The ban purports to improve the safety and health of women even as it bars doctors from following an internationally accepted standard of medical care.

All this, as the maternal mortality rate rises in Oklahoma; over the past nine years, it has increased by almost 50 percent. Women seek abortions in their second trimester, at times, because there is something medically wrong with the pregnancy or with their own health. Without access to second trimester abortions, women face not only continuing a pregnancy that is not desired, but also the possibility of on-going pregnancy-related problems that could further damage a women’s health. 

One in four women in the United States has an abortion by the age of 45, but abortion is not discussed as what it is: essential health care. The fact of the matter is that more women die from pregnancy-related complications in this country than in any other developed country in the world. Our nation’s draconian abortion restrictions are partly to blame. 

There is a lot at stake for women, especially women of color — who are socioeconomically disenfranchised; and women in marginalized groups. Women cannot live healthy and productive lives if their fundamental rights are taken away. 

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We must all continue to fight for the reproductive justice and freedom for women and families. We must all continue to educate and motivate the public on the subject of reproductive health care, including abortion access, until every woman, every person has the right to autonomy over their own body. Abortion is part of health care; it is a fundamental right.

Join with us and make your voice heard. It is important that our neighbors, our family members, our co-workers hear from people often and loudly, that abortion care is part of our American fabric, necessary for all, and cannot be taken away. It is especially important that people who are in more politically hostile and disenfranchised states, like Oklahoma, hear from advocates like us, so they know we are rallying together, as one, for the betterment of people all across this land, no matter your geography, your income or the color of your skin. 

Julie A. Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation. Trust Women opens clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care. Follow her on Twitter @julieburkhart.