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Guest column: With Roe in jeopardy, Oregon must take action

One of the most intimate decisions a woman ever faces is the decision to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child

By Frank Gibson

Special to The Daily Astorian

Published on June 20, 2017 12:01AM

Frank Gibson

Frank Gibson

The United States was founded on the principles of individual liberty, personal privacy and equality, and these principles are meant to ensure that each individual is free to make the most intimate decisions without government interference and discrimination.

As an attorney — but also as a husband and a father — I support comprehensive reproductive health care for Oregonians, without unnecessary restriction. This includes access to contraceptives, screening for possible infections and cancer, and counseling regarding all reproductive health options.

One of the most intimate decisions a woman ever faces is the decision to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child. These deeply personal medical decisions must be left up to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider. Patients deserve accurate information about all of their options to make their own, fully informed health care decisions.

In 1969, Oregon became one of the first states to legalize abortion. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman’s personal medical decision-making about pregnancy is a fundamental right. By a 7-2 majority, the landmark decision affirmed that the constitutionally protected right to privacy includes every woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decisions, without the interference of politicians.

Since then, a recent Pew Research Center poll confirms that the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. About seven in 10 oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

Nearly one-third of women in the United States decide to end a pregnancy, and every person’s personal decision about their pregnancy should be respected and valued. No one can make that decision for someone else.

Unfortunately, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, there is nothing in Oregon law that protects the right to abortion. In the face of growing political attacks, the Reproductive Health Equity Act (House Bill 3391) addresses this problem, establishing the right to safe and legal abortion in Oregon. This bill also protects Oregonians against discrimination in the provision of health care benefits and insurance on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability and makes such discrimination a violation of state law.

It is important for me to protect abortion access for future generations by codifying it clearly in our statutes. No matter who occupies the Oval Office or holds a majority in Congress, it is vital to Oregonians’ health and well-being that abortion remain a safe and legal medical procedure for a woman to consider, if and when she needs it.

Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, an estimated 1.2 million women per year in the United States were forced to resort to illegal abortions despite the known hazards, including unsanitary conditions, incompetent treatment, infection, hemorrhage, disfiguration and death. According to one estimate, prior to 1973, as many as 5,000 women died each year in the United States as a result of having an illegal abortion.

In states like Texas, where politicians have placed restrictions on access to abortion, we can already see the devastating consequences. Patients are traveling hundreds of miles, crossing state lines and waiting weeks to get an abortion, if they can at all. Researchers estimate that up to 240,000 Texans have tried to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance. This often has a disproportionate impact on communities of color, who already face systemic barriers in accessing quality health care.

Despite improvements in health care — and an overwhelming global trend in the other direction — the United States is one of the only countries in the world where maternal mortality rates have risen. In fact, according to a report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, between 2010 and 2014, the maternal mortality rate in Texas has doubled. This is unacceptable.

In order to ensure abortion remains safe and legal for future generations, we must replace misinformation with facts and have honest conversations about abortion in Oregon today. Every Oregonian deserves professional, nonjudgmental and fully confidential health care — no matter who they are, where they live, where they were born, what they earn, how they’re insured or how they identify their gender.

I believe deeply in the right of all people to make their own personal decisions about their bodies, their families and their life’s path, without unnecessary governmental interference. Abortion has been safe and legal in the United States for nearly 45 years, and Oregonians refuse to go backward.

Frank Gibson is a board member for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.


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