Restrictions on abortion: 42 years and 42 steps back

Growing up in Massachusetts I experienced what I now see as a lot of privilege with regard to socially liberal policies. Equal marriage was on the book by the time I graduate high school, we openly talked about racial issues within our communities, and access to health care and abortion were common (for those unfamiliar, Massachusetts had a universal health care law prior to the rest of the country). I took these things for granted, and didn’t realize how important they were.
Then I moved to Ohio. I thought I was prepared for the culture shift, but it’s hard to really be ready for that when you’ve lived in the most liberal state your whole life. Equal marriage doesn’t exist here, access to health care improved with the affordable care act… and then there’s abortion. As a single man, abortion isn’t something that spends too much time on the radar. Again, there’s my privilege showing. I don’t have to think about this, so I’m not as aware as I could be.
I’ve been aware of the growing backlash against abortion rights in the U.S. for some time. Missouri now only has one remaining clinic that performs abortions, and that is now in danger of being subject to annual investigations that could endanger its ability to operate due to such infractions as dust on counters (readthe Kansas City Star for more details). Other southern states have faced similar problems (such as RickPerry’s signing of severely restrictive abortion laws in Texas).
But that’s the South, right? I mean, I live in the midwest. This is a swing state. I shouldn’t have to worry about restrictions on something that the supreme court decided was a basic right of women. Should I? For those of you who were confused about my title, Roe v. Wade was decided 42 years ago. We’re facing such a crisis on abortion restrictions that the Supreme Court may need to revisit this issue.
So where does Ohio fall into this? And what do I mean by “42 steps back”? Addressing my second question first, I thought it would make a nice title, comparing our steps back with abortion to the number of years since the landmark Roe v. Wade case was concluded. Realistically? We have had far more than 42 setbacks with regard to abortion rights. Those restrictions in Missouri and Texas weren’t reached in one fell swoop; one legal decision after another led to the current level of restrictions.
As for Ohio, we have some of the most restrictive laws in the country regarding abortions induced by medication. Mifeprestone, also known as RU-486, is a prescription medication that is used to induce and abortion. It is currently legal in all states. In most states (47 of them), a patient can take the initial dose of the drug at the time they meet with a doctor for the prescription, and can take the second dosage at home. This practice is based on research from sources in Cleveland, OH, who sought to make the drug safer, more affordable, and more accessible to women nationwide. In Ohio (as in Texas and North Dakota), women must actually make 4 trips to the doctor to complete a course of RU-486. That’s 2-3 extra trips to the physician for the same medical treatment that is available in other states.
Being less attuned to this problem than I could have been, I was dumbfounded when I read this a few days ago on NPR (for the whole story, check out NPR’s full article here). My state is restrictive on abortions? How did I not know this? After spending a few hours being embarrassed, I resolved to bring this issue as much attention as possible. Not for Ohio; we can weather the cold and fight our own fights. No, this issue important because of its relevance to women nationwide, and to the ongoing national problem of legal restrictions imposed by a primarily white male legislative body on a woman’s right to agency over her own body. Sorry is that was a heavy sentence, but it’s accurate and appropriate. As counseling psychologists we have a responsibility to advocate for the rights of all, and as citizens we have a right to stand up and speak out for the things we believe to be worthwhile. For me, this issue is both right and responsibility, and I hope I can encourage others to consider whether or not it is important for them.

-Written by Eric R. McCurdy, M.A.

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