On January 22, we marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Prior to 1973, access to abortion wasn’t considered a right in America. Many women, especially poor women, were forced to choose between an untenable pregnancy, death or serious injury from a dangerous black-market abortion – even if pregnancy itself was a threat to their life or health.
Sadly, for far too many in 2021, it might just as well be 1972.
Imagine getting off work from your minimum wage job and stopping at the grocery store to pick up a few things. You walk past the family planning aisle and it occurs to you that your period is late, in fact, it’s two weeks late. Money is so tight you actually have to decide between a pregnancy test or milk for the week. You choose and purchase the pregnancy test. You rush to take it, hoping it’s not positive. As the seconds slow to minutes, you wonder what you’re going to do if it does indeed come back positive.
Time’s up, you pick up the test, and there it is – positive.
While for many, this moment is an exciting new chapter in their lives, for others it is not. In Arizona, many people face this situation every day. If they choose to seek an abortion, they are met with several barriers intended to prevent them from exercising their constitutional right and shame them for their choice.
Our governor has bragged many times that Arizona is among the most “pro-life” states in the country. He, of course, is referring to the myriad regulations designed as barriers to those seeking abortion care in Arizona. Waiting periods, in-person visit requirements, admitting privileges conditions and more all combine to deny access to what is supposed to be constitutionally protected health care. None of these laws were enacted to protect women’s health, despite what their authors may claim. None of them actually enhance the safety of abortion, which is one of the safest medical procedures there is. No. They are designed to thwart women’s free will, to make abortion as humiliating, difficult and expensive as possible. This is how the extreme wing of the pro-life movement attempts to reduce the number of abortions – power, control, and stigma.
We believe the tenets of reproductive justice can create a truly pro-life Arizona. An Arizona where a single mom can earn enough to support her family. Where child care is safe, high quality and affordable. Where teachers have the resources they need to prepare the next generation. Where Black people,indigenous people, and people of color have the same protections and opportunities as their white brethren. Where all communities have a clean environment, air that is fit to breathe, and police who work alongside communities to assure safety. Where a woman, wherever she lives, can access reproductive health care, including abortion.
In the same week we marked Roe v Wade, we inaugurated a new president. Many of us are full of hope for the future – for an end to division and hate, and a new era of cooperation. Wouldn’t it be something if those opposed to abortion worked together with us to reduce unplanned pregnancies (and thereby abortions) in the first place?
And what if we all advocated for the things that assure reproductive justice? Safety. Equality. Opportunity. If we all were focused on making sure every woman had the means to prevent pregnancy, access to a legal abortion when needed, and the ability to welcome a child into a secure and just world, then Arizona would truly be a “pro-life” state.
Jodi Liggett, founder of Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, wrote this commentary in collaboration with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; Greater Phoenix; Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe; Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe; Gabriella Goodrick, MD., Camelback Family Planning; Michael Soto, executive director, Equality Arizona; National Council of Jewish Women, Arizona; NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona; and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.