There are few issues that have been so passionately debated for so long. Regardless of your views on specific aspects of reproductive rights, one thing’s for sure: Your vote makes a difference. Who you help elect into office and the applicable ballot measures you help decide shape our reproductive care environment.
Reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare are critical to all Americans, not just the ladies. You’ll likely need various forms of reproductive care throughout your entire lifespan, as you pass through different developmental and life stages.
Reproductive care encompasses much more than just controlling baby-making and treating sexually transmitted illnesses (though those are infinitely important!). It’s also about preventative medicine, later-life concerns (like menopause and prostate care), education, research, advocacy and policymaking and programming.
Not Just a Vote on Abortion
Your vote — as it relates to reproductive rights — is about So. Much. More. In fact, reproductive care’s considered by many to be a vital component of overall healthcare rather than a stand-alone thing. (Just another reason why general healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare are also of great concern.)
The Big Issues
Let’s take a brief look at some of the hot-button issues. All of these have perpetually been in the news and the subject of major court cases. They’re all highly polarized and polarizing topics that can challenge the heart and mind.
- Abortion. One in four women have had an abortion and 70% of women want Roe v. Wade upheld. The legality of this medical procedure is at stake. Federal and state representatives are actively working on legislation that will define what’s allowed and where. Courts are actively reviewing and making judgements that further clarify and refine the laws. The current trend of laws and rulings is making abortion services harder to access.
- Contraception. The ability to do family planning is imperative to many. Having children is a huge decision that has health, economic and other ramifications. Current legal battles surround who can access birth control and where (like teens in school) and who has to pay for it (you or your insurance company). Again, the trend is to restrict access and shift the cost to consumers, which could radically impact rates of unintended pregnancies.
- Clinic & Clinician Access. It’s getting more difficult to get reproductive services because facilities that provide this care are closing or stopped offering certain therapies. Tighter abortion laws have hit clinics really hard. Many are no longer allowed to provide counseling services or terminate pregnancies. Other laws — like one that enforced a buffer zone around clinics for the safety of patients — are getting struck down. Meanwhile, so-called crisis pregnancy centers (aka fake clinics) are being allowed to expand their reach.
- Sex Ed. The debate here lies mostly in what to teach, who should participate and who gets to decide. In terms of curricula, some people want purely science-based lessons while others want faith-based material or an evolution-and-creationism mix. Some want to only include the biological aspects (like what changes the body goes through during puberty); others want to include social topics (like dating etiquette and contraception). There’s disagreement on what ages each slice of information is appropriate for. More fundamentally, though, many families argue that sexual health education should be done in the home by the parents, not in schools. Laws and regulations relating to sex ed are made at the state and local level.
Your Vote & the Issues
Learning about reproductive health issues is a first step. The next big move is voting. You often can’t directly influence policies and programs, so your vote is the mechanism through which you exert force.
Occasionally you may have the opportunity to directly change reproductive rights via ballot measures. Otherwise, the officials you elect draft and enact legislation that sculpts healthcare. Their delegates and appointees (like Supreme Court judges), create (or dismantle) and administer or oversee healthcare policies and programs. The common thread here is still YOU.
Voting, the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice
Given that reproductive health is so important, it’s equally important that you have an ability to register your views on the issue. For this reason, voting rights are sometimes equated to reproductive justice.
When access to voting is made difficult or impossible, people are prevented from advocating and taking action for their own reproductive health. Probably not a surprise, but minority and marginalized individuals (e.g., BIPOC, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, the poor, young people) are disproportionately affected by voting suppression tactics. Oftentimes, these are also the communities most need of reproductive health services.
Disenfranchise of people in these groups is a particularly sensitive topic when viewed through the lens of history. In the context of history, women have had both a lack bodily autonomy or informed consent and a lack of political power. This has had some serious consequences. Here are a few examples:
- Women of color were denied control over their bodies during slavery. This resulted in assaults and experimental medical procedures.
- Puerto Rican women were used for questionable birth control trials.
- Recently, immigrant women in ICE detention were allegedly forced to undergo sterilization.
This is just to underscore the idea that the act of voting in and of itself is an act of exercising reproductive rights. Casting your vote is a fundamental way to fight for your reproductive health justice.
Reproductive healthcare covers much more than just abortion and contraceptives. Because it’s so wide ranging, reproductive care is relevant to all Americans. We’ll all need it at some point in our lives.
By voting, you’re standing up for your reproductive rights. Your vote declares your position on reproductive health issues and can sway outcomes.
Access to voting is needed for reproductive justice to exist. Voting suppression efforts and lack of reproductive health rights disproportionately impact minority and marginalized people.
Go #IGNITEthevote and strive reproductive justice for all.