This is the most dire, crucial time for women’s privacy, health and bodily autonomy in more than half a century. Despite the concern over the U.S. Supreme Court hearings, Roe v. Wade is already non-existent for most women in this country. There are 1,100 state restrictions that have limited a woman’s ability to determine her own health care and life choices. In nearly 90 percent of the counties in America, there are no providers. Without access, there are no rights.
For 125 years, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) has confronted social and economic challenges facing women, children and families. As a faith-based organization, we believe that access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion, is critical to women’s well-being, dignity and conscience, not to mention religious liberty. Every woman must be allowed to make her own decisions about her reproductive life — that is why reproductive freedom is inextricably bound to religious freedom.
But beyond abortion, women are also facing a flood of laws and governmental policies and Supreme Court decisions that ban contraceptives and sex education other than abstinence. These laws deny insurance coverage, label pregnancy a pre-existing condition, dictate how women will give birth, and above all, turn women into criminals for having a stillbirth, miscarriage or abortion. We now have policing of the womb, where legislatures and courts control every aspect of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth.
Despite Roe v. Wade, in the first three months of 2018, 347 measures to restrict abortion or birth control were introduced in 37 states. Iowa has banned abortion at six weeks, well before many women even know they are pregnant; Mississippi has banned the procedure at 15 weeks. In Arizona, women are now required to explain why they are seeking an abortion.
Arizona still has laws on the books that outlaw abortion and impose tough mandatory prison time. Even after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, our state never repealed those abortion laws, some of which date back decades before the landmark legal ruling. Now activists worry those laws could once again be enforced if a Supreme Court with enough conservative justices allows states to outlaw abortion.
We believe every woman must be allowed to make her own decisions about her reproductive life. That’s why reproductive freedom is inextricably bound to religious freedom. That’s why everyone must vote … so we can overturn the threats to women’s rights in Arizona and across the country. Our lives depend on it. JN
Susan Schesnol is president of the National Council of Jewish Women/Arizona Section.