How Can We Protect Our Reproductive Freedoms?

The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing Texas to ban most abortions makes it clear that the Republican party is out to limit women’s rights. Unfortunately, the 50-year fight to overturn Roe vs. Wade may be over, with our side losing. That doesn’t mean we give up, but we do need to change our strategies and focus on the state legislatures, where the next battles will be fought.

What happened in Texas is not a one-off. Dozens of other states, including Pennsylvania, are introducing legislation to ban some kinds of abortion. PA House Republicans have proposed several bills that attack the reproductive rights of women and families. One bill would ban abortion after a doctor identifies a fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks (not unlike the Texas law); another bill (which the PA House passed in June) would prohibit abortions sought because of a Downs Syndrome diagnosis. If these bills were to pass the General Assembly, we know Governor Wolf would veto them. However, with the governorship up for grabs in 2022, we may no longer have that protection. That’s why our first order of business is to elect a Democratic governor in 2022, as well as proactive women legislators, who will defend the reproductive rights of all women and families.

If we can gain a Democratic majority in the PA House, we can enact state laws covering rights granted by Roe vs. Wade, such as those passed by the legislatures in Massachusetts and Illinois. In the meantime, we need to hound our current legislators and let them know that what happened in Texas is a blow for not just women’s reproductive rights, but human rights. We need greater access to reproductive healthcare for all women and families, not less.

For the longer term, Democrats need to think strategically about 10- and 15-year plans to win back the rights we might lose. For starters, we need to reframe the debate to emphasize reproductive rights and the health of all humans - rejecting policies that make reproductive healthcare accessible to only those who can afford it and advocating for those that support prenatal life and provide socioeconomic benefits for women who choose to become mothers.

Ultimately, if we want to ensure that our reproductive rights can’t be taken away by the whim of justices or far-right legislatures, we need a long-term plan for a new constitutional amendment that addresses women’s equity and reproductive freedoms.