For women, deciding whether to have children, how many we have, and with whom we have them, determines our life course. Obtaining a degree, having a career, volunteering in our communities, taking care of elderly parents, or raising kids are pursuits —what the Founders called the pursuits of happiness—that give our lives meaning. Our decision to be—or not be—a parent directly affects how we choose to make an impact on our world.
Women know all too well that these are self-evident truths. Recently, SNL comedian Cecily Strong bravely explained that if she had not had an abortion at age 23, she would not be a professional comedian at age 37. In a brief to the Supreme Court, over 500 professional and collegiate athletes confirmed that their athletic success would not have occurred without being able to make decisions about an abortion. Six out of 10 women who have had an abortion are already parents who do not have enough resources to care for more children. Women are conditioned to keep these stories hidden, afraid that their reasons, their decisions will be judged harshly as glib, or selfish. I can understand. Having been a single mother, I know the loneliness and uncertainty of whether I would be able to pay next month’s bills. No one should be forced into that job.
For 50 years, Roe v. Wade has shielded women from state attempts to limit access to necessary abortion services. I am committed to fighting to keep Roe, but the Supreme Court appears to be ready to abandon it, and states will then have an unfettered ability to ban abortion.
The new state laws that deny abortion access are not about abortion. These laws curtail, limit, and deny a woman’s right to engage in the world on her own terms. In Florida, Gov. DeSantis, who signed an abortion ban, vetoed a provision that set aside money to provide contraception to low-income women and girls. For low-income women in particular, the state legislatures that create the need for abortion and then deny access to it cut short educations, end careers, and extinguish, for too many, the ability to live fully “our one wild and precious life.”
I am running for Congress to fight for policies that allow women—and families—the ability to make their world a better place, in their own way, and on their own terms.
First, there is a proven and affordable measure —making contraception easily available— that reduces unwanted pregnancies. Colorado provides an example. In 2008, 60 percent of Colorado women, aged 15 to 24, who gave birth said that their pregnancy was unintended. Colorado responded by providing contraception to over 30,000 women. The results were dramatic. By 2019, teen abortion rates across the state dropped by 64%.
Second, Congress must take basic steps to support women when they do decide to have children. The annual cost of child care for infants can be as much as, or even exceed, the cost of tuition for college. Child care is 35% of some families’ budgets. President Biden and Congressional Democrats are pushing for meaningful support for families in the Infrastructure Law and Build Back Better law that provide child tax credit, paid-family leave, affordable child care, and universal preschool. But not a single elected Congress member who calls themselves “pro-life,” supports these provisions.
Third, Congress can ensure that every woman, in every community, is treated fairly. Our access to safe abortion should not depend on our zip code. Today, close to 40% of all abortions in the US, and 75% in my home state of Montana, are produced with a pill that doctors can safely and effectively prescribe up until 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, Republican leaders in Montana, like many other states, are restricting mail access to this medication, for purely ideological reasons. There is no medical or scientific rationale for such restrictions, but they disproportionately impact abortion access for low-income, rural, and Native American women. These restrictions are all the more egregious because the same legislatures permit men to obtain over the Internet unfettered access to Viagra.
Republican state legislatures are passing laws that inflame passions, create inequities, and literally have us turn against our neighbors. These laws purposefully destroy the critical network of support a woman turns to in her hour of need. Rather than isolate and marginalize women when they are most vulnerable, Congress can ensure that all women have the means to set the course of our own destinies.