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Womens health decisions need to be protected

It was 40 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the historic “Roe v. Wade” case. This landmark ruling affirmed that the constitutionally-protected right to privacy includes every woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decisions, without the interference of politicians.

Four decades later, a majority of Americans still agree with the high court: Personal health care decisions should be left up to a woman. None of us can understand a woman’s specific situation. We don’t walk in her shoes.

In poll after poll, the majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion in some or most cases. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that nearly two-thirds of American voters support Roe v. Wade. In addition, a post-election poll from the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of voters younger than 30 think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Undoubtedly, voters made it clear in 2012 they are opposed to policies that demean and dismiss women. On Election Day, Americans rejected some of the most vocal and extreme opponents of safe and legal abortion. These voters recognize — and studies prove — that increased access to abortion is linked to better physical and mental health; decreased levels of poverty and abuse; and improved economic outcomes both for the woman and for the government.

Yet we continue to fight politicians who are seemingly obsessed with banning or chipping away at abortion access. In state after state, legislators have put forward bills that seek to limit a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about her pregnancy.

Here in Oregon, bills were introduced this year that would have imposed a 20-week abortion ban (with no protections for a woman’s health or safety) and that would have singled out abortion providers for unnecessary, politically motivated, targeted regulations — and effectively shut down nearly all of them. Meanwhile, opponents of women’s health, such as Oregon Right to Life, perpetuate junk science (for example, its website falsely claims abortion “is the root cause of a significant number of breast cancer cases”) and spread outright lies about rape (“the trauma of sexual assault is likely to inhibit ovulation”).

In addition, extremists are gathering signatures for a 2014 ballot measure that would prohibit access to medically necessary abortion coverage for low-income women.

Fortunately, Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, have co-sponsored a nationwide solution to these state-based attacks. The Women’s Health Protection Act would create federal protections against state restrictions on abortion that do not advance women’s health and safety, and instead create barriers to accessing this safe and legal medical procedure. The last time Congress passed proactive legislation to protect reproductive freedom was in 1994, with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Planned Parenthood works every day to reduce unintended pregnancy and keep women healthy. We believe a woman should have accurate information about all her options regarding her pregnancy, and this information should support a woman and help her make a decision for herself. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.

We support women in whatever decision they make — this is our promise. We’ve protected access to abortion for women for 40 years, and we will continue to protect it for the next 40.

Laura Terrill Patten is the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.



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