How to Restore Abortion Rights in Every State in America

Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray / The Hill
How to Restore Abortion Rights in Every State in America Abortion rights protesters chant during a Pro-Choice rally. (photo: Sandy Huffaker)

Right now in America, women’s health care and right to control their own bodies are under attack as Republican politicians across the country are trying everything they can to ban abortion and stamp out basic reproductive freedoms.

The Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which took away the constitutional right to abortion, was only two years ago. Today, more than one-third of American women of reproductive age live in states that have criminalized abortion and are denying women access to basic reproductive health care.

Let’s be clear: Abortion is health care, it is a common and safe medical procedure, and it is a fundamental human right. There are millions of women across 21 states who are being forced to live under Republican laws that allow politicians to make the deeply personal decisions women should be making for themselves with their doctors.

Every woman should have the freedom in America to decide when and how they become pregnant — that shouldn’t be controversial. But, because of Republican policies, the horrifying truth of what it means when abortion — health care — is severely restricted or fully banned is becoming more apparent every day:

  1. A woman from Texas, Kate Cox, was hoping for her third child but found out her fetus had a terrible, fatal condition. Cox and her doctor made the very personal decision to end her pregnancy for her health and safety, and to protect her ability to have future children. But she was forced to leave her state to receive basic health care because right-wing Supreme Court Justices in Texas with no medical expertise refused to grant her a medical exception under their state’s draconian six-week abortion ban.

  2. A woman from Florida was sent home from the hospital because her life was not considered at imminent risk. She lost almost half the blood in her body.

  3. A woman from Louisiana was forced to seek care in New York after being denied an abortion when she learned that her fetus would not survive from a condition preventing skull growth.

  4. A woman in Idaho had to travel to Oregon after learning her fetus had developmental issues and she could develop life-threatening conditions if she was forced to carry out the pregnancy.

  5. A 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped needed to travel to Indiana because she was denied an abortion in her home state. The Indiana attorney general then targeted her health care provider.

These are some of the most egregious and harrowing stories we’ve seen, but no woman should be forced to stay pregnant against her will — abortion must be a safe and accessible medical procedure available to every woman, no matter her income or zip code.

We will not let Republicans ignore the damage their policies are causing. That’s why we held a Senate Health Committee hearing to make plain how the Republican assault on women’s freedoms and their abortion bans have created a health care nightmare across America. We will not let them off the hook for their cruel policies or breathtaking hypocrisy on this issue.

If Republicans truly believed in small government or freedom, they wouldn’t be championing federal and state governments mandating what women can and cannot do with their own bodies and taking away their fundamental right to choose.

And if Republicans truly believed in family values, they would join Democrats in Congress who want to make health care, child care and a living wage a universal right of all Americans. They would join us in guaranteeing paid family and medical leave to all our people just like nearly every major country on Earth did decades ago.

Instead, Republicans in Washington oppose all of these policies at the same time they are actively jeopardizing the ability of women to have a family by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term, even when it’s unsafe. Not only are abortion bans terrible public policy, but they are also immoral — and it is the exact opposite of family values to force a woman to stay pregnant when she doesn’t want to be.

And their abortion bans place a far greater burden on working-class Americans who are much less likely to be able to access money, time off work, child care, means of transportation and other resources necessary to travel long distances for abortion care. In this way, abortion bans are yet another attack on working Americans.

Enough is enough.

When it comes to women’s rights, we cannot accept Republicans dragging us backward — we must move forward. The Dobbs decision cannot be allowed to stand.

We must restore women’s basic and fundamental right to control their own bodies. That means passing the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure every woman in America has the right to access the reproductive health care, including abortion care, that she may need.

Congress must restore the right to abortion nationwide. Let’s not mince words about what a second Donald Trump administration would mean for reproductive health care in America: Trump could unilaterally restrict abortion nationwide, rip away access to safe medication abortion, restrict contraception and worse.

Democrats understand that abortion is health care and health care must be a human right for all, not a privilege for a few — Republicans are fighting to force women to stay pregnant no matter the circumstances.

Make no mistake: With a pro-choice majority in the House and the Senate and Joe Biden in the White House — Democrats will restore and protect abortion rights for every woman in America. Donald Trump and Republicans will stop at nothing to enact a national abortion ban.

The difference is clear and the stakes could not be higher — Americans must make themselves heard with their voices and their votes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and former chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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