By Diana Conway
Eileen Becker’s commentary in the Jan. 23 issue of this newspaper is an example of “one size fits all” belief. Because she personally opposes abortion at least as early as 21 days after conception, she wants all of us to reject abortion. “Is it a life?” she asks. An egg is a living cell and a sperm is a living cell, but after many decades of societal debate we have finally made birth control legal despite the protests of those who oppose sex without the intent to conceive a child.
Abortion is also legal in America. The law doesn’t require Becker or any other woman who shares her abhorrence of abortion to submit to one. Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision Becker attacks as “notorious,” simply protects my right, my daughter-in-law’s right and my granddaughters’ right to a safe medical abortion.
I’m old enough to remember when abortion was illegal in America, and women died in unsanitary clandestine apartments. Where abortion is illegal, statistics will generally underreport actual deaths. See www.guttmacher.org for the best available current numbers. Eileen Becker’s attempt to discredit thousands of women’s deaths by calling the statistics “lies” is at best political posturing.
For this reason among others, I view with alarm the growing political movement to undermine Roe v. Wade in several states around the nation. This is being done through legislation that requires waiting periods, unnecessary and expensive tests, cuts in spending for women’s health clinics, and unreasonable impediments for minors.
Here in Alaska, I see a similar attempt in Sen. John Coghill’s recent statement that he will introduce legislation to define the term “medically necessary” before the state is allowed to pay for a poor woman’s abortion. Most legislators are not doctors. I think we can trust medical workers to make the best decision for their patients. And, we certainly don’t want a state where poor women are forced to bear children.
Alaskans should concentrate instead on ways to reduce the necessity for abortions. Preventing conception through birth control is one of the best ways to lower abortion rates. All women should have access to effective and affordable birth control. This means support for public clinics everywhere in the state, where women can receive general and reproductive health care. Schools need to provide scientifically-based sex education, including birth control, and the dangers of alcohol in leading to unwanted pregnancy and fetal alcohol syndrome. We must continue mental health, rape prevention, and healthy family initiatives statewide.
Social projects are costly for a large state such as ours, but in the long run may make abortions less necessary, though never completely unnecessary. Birth control can fail, life situations can change, and severe fetal defects can be detected. Women faced with an unwanted pregnancy must continue to have the right to a safe and timely medical abortion.
Time and transportation costs are important considerations in Alaska, where many women live far from abortion providers. All things being equal, an early abortion is preferable to a late one for both mother and fetus. A fertilized egg is a potential human being. The important word here is “potential.” Some early pregnancies will pass from a woman’s body in a natural miscarriage. For this reason, doctors may tell an intentionally pregnant couple not to spread the news to family and friends until the third month.
Reasonable people may differ on the question of when life begins, but in America personal beliefs cannot be imposed on others. Roe v. Wade has determined abortion is legal until a fetus is able to sustain independent life outside the mother. This is a right worth protecting in Alaska.
Diana Conway lives year round in Halibut Cove and is a freelance writer of children’s magazine stories.
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