Vail Daily column: A choice for women, not politicians
Abortion has been legal in the U.S. since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court which ruled that “A state criminal abortion statute … is violative of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.”
Justice Harry Blackmun, writing the opinion for the court, introduced a significant disclaimer in the court’s decision, “ … the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified, and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”
The latitude written into the Supreme Court’s decision regarding states’ interests led to 45 years of legal challenges and maneuvers all with the intention of limiting women’s access to abortion. These challenges have risen dramatically in the past five years. On May 13, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 242-184, almost entirely along party lines, to ban abortions in America after 20 weeks of gestation. Rep. Scott Tipton, a former pottery seller from Cortez who represents half of Eagle County, voted for the 20-week abortion ban.
Tipton is in possession of neither a uterus nor a medical degree. In the absence of female hardware and educational expertise, Tipton and his Republican colleagues imposed their personal beliefs on American women and inserted themselves between women and their doctors — the people with actual medical diplomas.
As for the other Colorado representatives, Democrats Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette voted against the measure. Republicans Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn not only voted for the legislation, they co-sponsored it.
Unlike Buck, Tipton did not boast about his vote on this legislation. He did not mention his vote on his website nor did he tweet about it, as he has done with other legislation. Perhaps Tipton is hoping that many voters will not notice, and for good reason. Most voters do not want politicians spending time on this issue. According to a nationwide poll by Hart Research Associates, the majority of voters regardless of party felt that abortion was the wrong issue for legislators to be working on at this time.
According to polling by the Gallup organization, the problems most Americans identify as being important include issues such as the economy, unemployment/jobs, immigration, health care, education and poverty.
Moreover, what many anti-abortion crusaders fail to appreciate is that the abortion rate has been declining for decades and the decline predates the recent emergence of restrictive legislation. In 2011, the abortion rate in America reached its lowest level since abortion was legalized in 1973 — 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-45. As I wrote in my last column, readily available contraception radically decreased the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in Colorado alone.
Furthermore, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.5 percent of all abortions are performed after 20 weeks. Why wait 20 weeks into a pregnancy to get an abortion? It is not like a bell goes off at conception. Pregnancy affects women differently. Some women simply do not realize they are pregnant. I personally know a woman who did not know she was pregnant until she was four months along. In some cases, catastrophic birth defects are not discovered until later in the pregnancy. In other cases, young women with limited financial resources have to scrape together the money to afford the procedure, sometimes that takes time. Some women develop serious health issues themselves. The point is, few abortions are performed after 20 weeks. When an abortion is sought after this point the reason is often medical. In other words, the decision to abort a fetus is a decision best left to a woman and her doctor, not legislators.
While the percentages have moved up and down a few points in the decades since the Roe v. Wade decision, one thing that has not changed is that the majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. See for yourself at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx.
Something else to consider, according to the Guttmacher Institute, by the age of 30, 1 in 4 women in America have had an abortion, and by age 45, it is 3 in 10. That means there are tens of millions of women in America who have had an abortion. No doubt many made the decision on their own, while others included boyfriends, husbands, sisters, mothers or friends in their decision. That is a lot of people who have a stake in keeping abortion safe and legal in America. Scott Tipton is up for reelection in 2016. Hopefully by that time women in Eagle County will be able to choose a candidate that does not presume to make choices for them.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be found online at clairenoble.org or follow her on Twitter @thewriteclaire.