YOU are powerful because you stand for women’s health.
We just heard that the Susan B. Komen Foundation will revise its decision to terminate service contracts with the affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Komen decision, as it stood, would have disproportionately impacted low-income women, who are disproportionately Latinas and women of color. Folks across the country raised their voices in support of Planned Parenthood, who provides essential health services to women and help decrease racial and economic health disparities.
Komen’s decision to revise demonstrates the power that you hold when you stand up and speak out in support of women’s health.
TARA SCHLEIFER is powerful because she shared her story.
Yesterday, Tara, a 42- year-old woman from Haymarket, Virginia, testified before the Virginia State Senate about her personal experience with a high-risk pregnancy.
She testified because the Virginia General Assembly had proposed legislation that would ban abortion procedures after 20 weeks of fetal gestation, allegedly on the basis that at this stage a fetus can feel pain. Bans on abortions prior to fetal viability are unconstitutional, yet the Virginia state government still considered proceeding with this ban based on this concept of “fetal pain.”
Tara’s testimony, however, highlighted the crucial reasons why politicians should not be allowed to interfere in this personal, medical decision.
At 17 weeks, Tara learned that her fetus, if brought to term, would suffer “a number of debilitating health conditions, including a heart defect that would have required multiple surgeries.” After weeks of research and discussion, she concluded that “having the baby would not only subject him to more suffering, but would leave the family financially and emotionally bankrupt and unfairly detract from the parenting of 3-year-old son Isaac.”
Laws like the 20-week abortion ban would completely erode Tara’s ability to make the best decision for her and her family. The ban would also inevitably endanger women’s health and lives, as complications in pregnancies are not uncommon.
Because of Tara’s testimony, the bill died in a vote. Republican Sen. Harry Blevins of Chesapeake, whose abstention made the bill unsuccessful and who had just previously voted for an ultrasound law, stated, “I don’t feel like I have the ability to make a decision as difficult as the one that young woman made.”
Laws that ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation are particularly devastating to Latinas, who face myriad barriers to seeking the abortion care they need. Latinas are more likely to have difficulty with transportation, receiving child care, and financial resources, which inevitably cause delays in seeking abortion care. Latinas who live in rural areas or states with very few abortion care providers face substantial barriers to seeking timely care.
Hopefully, Tara’s story can inform other state and federal lawmakers. Currently, similar post-20-week abortion bans are being proposed in states and in Congress. In Florida, HB 839 is being sponsored by Rep. Daniel Davis (R), and in Congress, Trent Franks is proposing this ban for the District of Columbia.
We thank Tara for her courage and strength. Tara’s story reminds us that we are all powerful, because our lives, our stories and our voices matter.