Op-Ed: We the Women of the United States: The Fight for Unrestricted Reproductive Rights


Grethel Vega
University of Southern California Graduate Student and UCSB Alumni

The recent F.D.A. announcement of new guidelines concerning the decrease of age from 17 to 15 for females seeking to obtain emergency contraception or Plan B can’t be completely dismissed. It is a step, a small minuscule step, but a step nonetheless in the right direction. And yes, the new guidelines continue to be restrictive, but they’re a little less restrictive. What else could we ask for? I mean, the government finds it acceptable for a 5-year-old to possess a rifle, but “irresponsible” for women to have unrestricted access to the health care needs that should be lawfully theirs. Besides, what’s another restriction to the already hundreds of limiting legislations that are already in place? Take the example of H.R. 23, The Sanctity of Human Life Act, better known as the Personhood Bill. Essentially, the bill seeks to reverse the infamous Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, sending women all the way back into the hanger ages by criminalizing abortion all together. I don’t think it can get any more restrictive than that.

Although H.R. 23 only has a 2 percent chance of being enacted, the issue goes beyond this. The fact that this type of legislation continues to be created and the ideologies behind it perpetuated is the issue at hand. The fact that a man, Congressman Paul Broun Jr. of Georgia, along with 34 other men are behind this legislation is the problem. A bigger problem yet is the fact that two women are also supporting the bill. The blatant disregard for the reproductive rights of women is the biggest problem here. The decisions currently being made on behalf of the women of this country are not being made with their best interest in mind. The impact that the rhetoric found in H.R. 23 has on low social economic status communities can be devastating in particular because as Guttmacher Institute on Reproductive Health research indicates, 40 percent of the women obtaining abortions are below the poverty line. Completely preventing women the right to choose will not only overwhelm numerous social systems but it will create a public health crisis equal to the ones that got Roe v. Wade passed in the first place.

Luckily, we live in a state that has gotten an A+ on the NARAL’s National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League grading on choice related laws. But even then, 22 percent of the counties in California have no abortion providers. California also upholds laws restricting young women access to an abortion by requiring parental consent for minors under the age of 18. Additionally, California’s law on Refusal to Provide Medical Services Abortion Refusal Clause has made it possible for Orange County’s Hoag Memorial to ban elective abortion earlier this week after finalizing its affiliation with a Catholic hospital group. And just like that, California becomes a little more restricted right under our noses.

It cannot be enough to allow for these less restrictive guidelines, laws, and legislations to continue just being less restrictive. Not only is it time for government officials to begin empathizing with the women in this country who are being affected by their decision making, it is also time for all the women in this country to be concerned with their rights. Without these voices, there is no chance of protection against the looming threats and infringements on the reproductive rights of women. Being informed of these threats to our health care can be the first step. Becoming involved and not only advocating for ourselves but for the disadvantaged women that are suffering the negative consequences needs to be the second step to obliterating the harmful rhetoric that allows for these restrictions to uphold in a country that prides itself on autonomy.