Commentary

06.19.14

Reproductive Rights – Beyond the “A” Word

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This is the seventh in a series of posts focusing on issues we will be tackling at the 2014 ACLU of Ohio biennial conference, Resist. Reclaim. Restore Your Rights!


Reproductive rights do not begin and end at abortion.

Rather, abortion is just one of many rights that run the full gamut of a woman’s life.

Access to birth control, pregnancy protection, equal pay, and yes, to abortion services, are all necessary to ensuring women’s health and stability. Under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, this access is also their constitutionally protected right.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Despite requirements from the Department of Health and Human Services that insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptive methods, numerous complaints have been filed challenging the coverage requirement. Two of these cases are before the U.S. Supreme Court right now. (We should have an answer on whether or not companies must comply by June 2014.)

Register now for the 2014 ACLU of Ohio Biennial Conference!

Women also face employment challenges when pregnant. In Ohio, we are defending a woman who was fired from her job with a religious organization for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.

Even pregnant women who are married may have employment problems. Though many women are able to work throughout their pregnancies without any changes in their jobs, women whose jobs require physical activity may need a minor modification in order to continue working without endangering their pregnancies. Yet many employers refuse reasonable accommodation for mothers-to-be, forcing them to take unpaid leave or firing them.

For those who choose to end their pregnancies, accessing abortion providers is becoming more difficult. Ohio law requires abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergency (though all hospitals must take someone who needs immediate medical attention – with or without an official agreement.) Recent legislation banned public hospitals in Ohio from making these agreements with abortion clinics. We sued over this.

Several clinics have closed because they lacked a transfer agreement.

This means that women must travel farther to access a safe abortion. While this isn’t a problem for middle and upper class women, this additional travel will be a huge burden for low-income women.

Ultimately, what we’re doing is creating an environment where women’s choices (pregnancy, employment, housing, etc.) are restrictive, thus limiting full participation in society. Whether women want to end their pregnancies, keep them (and their jobs), or never become pregnant in the first place, it should be up to them and their families. The ACLU works to ensure autonomy and control for all women’s choices.

Learn more about how you can get involved in protecting reproductive rights. Join us at our 2014 biennial conference, Resist! Reclaim! Restore Your Rights! which will feature a workshop on this topic.

 

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