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Letter: Reframing abortion rights questions

I wish we could disrupt the fiction that objection to abortion rights is primarily about babies and their lives.

If it were, we would take better care of the babies after they are born — with better child care and health care, better wages for their parents, affordable housing, and options for education from pre-K through community college.

Instead, as half of all abortions are obtained by people living below the federal poverty line, society will come to regard many of the adults who grow from these babies with disdain rooted in issues of class.

Anti-abortion laws are not primarily about babies but rather about controlling women, especially poor women and women of color. The effects on men of restricting abortions are minimal; no wonder the laws controlling abortion are primarily the laws of men; no wonder we don’t concern ourselves with the huge disparity in impact on women and men of anti-abortion laws.

We know how to prevent most abortions: provide free or cheap family planning services. A decade ago, Washington University School of Medicine reported that when women were given no-cost contraception for three years, abortion rates dropped dramatically — two-thirds to three-quarters lower than the national rate.

But the same people who oppose abortion rights oppose Planned Parenthood and insurance coverage for contraception. Limiting these options is another way to control women. These limits increase unwanted pregnancies and demand for abortion.

Perhaps we should reframe the questions about abortion rights. Instead of “When does life begin?” and “Who matters more, mother or child?” the questions are “Why do we make it hard for women to get family planning, including contraception?” “Why do we punish women who can’t get contraception by limiting abortion?” and “Why does this country permit laws that discriminate against one group of people (women)?”

To be pro-life, support policies that respect women and children, provide family planning and universal health care, and support opportunities for quality of life for all no matter their gender, race or class. 

Carolyn Rude, Blacksburg 

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