Abortion debate continues

Cyril Josh Barker | 6/6/2019, 12:02 p.m.

The debate over abortion rages on as states continue to pass more stringent laws, but advocates maintain the fight across the nation to allow women to choose.

Reports indicate that the state of Missouri is the focus of the abortion issue. A bill (HB 126) signed last week by Gov. Mike Parsons prohibits abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy. Doctors who perform abortions face up to 15 years in prison. There is no exception for cases of rape and incest.

“Failing to protect the right to an abortion violates the individual freedom of Missourians. HB 126 runs counter to our shared belief in autonomy and it has devastating health consequences for Missourians who become pregnant,” said Sara Baker, legislative and policy director with the ACLU of Missouri.

Missouri’s bill comes just weeks after state legislatures in Alabama passed a similar bill that virtually bans abortions in that state. Doctors who perform abortions in that state could face up to 99 years in prison.

Currently, one in three women of reproductive age live in a state where abortion could be outlawed if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Pascale Bernard, vice president of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City, said during a recent interview that reproductive rights in the country are under attack by conservative lawmakers who are putting politics before patients.

“These politicians are passing extreme anti-abortion laws, with one goal in mind—to challenge Roe v. Wade, and abolish safe and legal abortions across the country,” Bernard said. “This is not only an assault on patients in those states—this is an assault on everyone who can and will get pregnant.”

Bernard said that abortion bans will have a great impact on marginalized communities. African-American women are dying from pregnancy-related illnesses at a rate three times greater than white women. Advocates say banning abortion jeopardizes the lives of African-American women who rely on safe and affordable health care and abortion access.

“We offer educational programs to bring reproductive and sexual health information directly to young people and the adults most closely connected with them,” said Bernard. “On June 5, Planned Parenthood of NYC is hosting a dynamic workshop on talking with your children about consent, sex and sexuality. Our Project Street Beat Program goes into communities in Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Upper Manhattan and provides sexual and reproductive health services to vulnerable people in those areas.”

Bernard adds that pro-life supporters contradict their argument about abortion when it comes to gun violence. She says supporters aren’t as vocal on gun violence that endangers the lives of children in inner cities and schools.

“They are silent when Black lives are cut short due to fatal interactions with law enforcement. They are absent on the border as children are being tear-gassed and forcibly separated from their parents,” Bernard said. “They do not provide protection to women who are victims of sexual assault and violence.”