Guest Commentary

Reproductive care and abortion access a matter of justice for all women

Stacey Newman, Missouri State Representative, 87th District
Stacey Newman, Missouri State Representative, 87th District

Contrary to the views of Steve Kraske in his recent column “Missouri Democrats can’t afford to impose abortion litmus test,” women’s reproductive rights are not merely “issues” for anyone to discard in order to recruit conservative candidates and be competitive.

As a legislator long dedicated to protecting reproductive rights, I am incensed by Kraske’s characterization of the topic. Referring to reproductive rights as a “litmus test” for Democratic candidates is insulting — and frankly demeaning — to all women who prefer not be pawns in power games. I am joined in these sentiments by Colleen McNicholas, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who is committed by medical oath to providing reproductive health care to every woman in any state who needs it.

Legislators in both Missouri and Kansas advance punitive “pro-life” legislation every year. Anyone who visits an OB-GYN office, hospital or even an abortion clinic in person can see the real-life consequences of “pro-life” bills on women, physicians and hospitals on both sides of the state line. Actual OB-GYNs can explain how conservative legislators have interfered with their medical training, teaching and code of ethics by passing laws that contradict medical science.

Missouri and Kansas women have depended on legal contraception the past 45 years to plan if and when they have children. They depend on infertility clinics for desperately wanted families and depend on physicians who will provide standard medical care for miscarriages.

Many “pro-life” bills are opposed by the medical community, as they would severely restrict or even outlaw these common reproductive issues. Many have had support by conservative legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Abortion care includes customary procedures, such as a dilation and curettage or “D&C” following a miscarriage, treatment for severe fetal abnormalities, rape and incest cases, along with multiple other reasons. There are stark realities when women are forced to carry wanted pregnancies to term even when fetuses have died or are no longer viable.

Up to 25 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage. One in 3 U.S. women has had an abortion, and 7 in 10 voters believe abortion must remain constitutionally protected.

Women of all ages and faiths — including Republicans and even abortion protesters — have had an abortion, for reasons that are protected by HIPPA laws.

Abortion care is constitutionally protected, even more so with the landmark 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that states abortion regulations must outweigh the “undue burden” they place on physicians and access.

It is unacceptable for candidates of any stripe to try to legislate their personal morality and vote against the medical community and women’s access to basic health care, particularly in rural areas.

However, the real villain here is the anti-medicine Republican Party, which supports Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Both have signed egregious bills that accredited medical organizations, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, adamantly oppose.

We know the dire consequences of these punitive laws, which cause women to travel hours and often out of state to receive medical care they need. We see the effects on physicians who are prevented from giving reproductive care that they are obligated to provide.

Both McNicholas and I are extremely dedicated to protecting reproductive rights, in both the legislative arena and the doctor’s office. We speak for thousands of women who often have little voice or access to an OB-GYN who will give them care they deserve.

Access to abortion and the whole gamut of reproductive health care is an issue of economic justice, racial justice and human rights for every single woman, regardless of where she lives.

State Rep. Stacey Newman is a Democrat representing Missouri’s 87th District.