Catholics For Choice Conscience VOL. XXXV—NO. 3 2014 : Page 26

MORE THAN ONE DIRE CTION rights and reproductive rights to decide freely upon all aspects of our body, our sexuality and our lives, free from coer-cion, discrimination and violence.” Within this broad perspective, contra-ception and abortion represent points on the same continuum of tools enabling people to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and lives. A com-prehensive approach to sexual and repro-ductive health and rights should include a full range of contraceptive methods with information on their effective use and adverse effects. It should include safe and legal abortion, free from stigma, as well as education and counseling on sexuality, gender and healthy relationships; appro-priate services for people living with HIV ; other STI prevention and treatment; and prenatal and maternal care in the context of overall health services. While we oppose strategies that pro-mote contraception at the expense of abortion, we certainly support increasing women’s access to safe contraception, including LARC . Like abortion, these are essential aspects of a reproductive health policy that will enable people to exercise their reproductive autonomy and human rights. We know all too well from set-tings where access is prohibited or highly restricted that the costs in terms of maternal health and mortality are high. Abortion and contraception are neces-sary public health interventions that save women’s lives and preserve their health. Abortion should not be seen as a failure of individual or social responsibility. No w Avail able DIGITAL EDITIONS Read your favorite cutting-edge coverage of reproductive rights, church and state issues and US politics on your handheld device: Add the newsjournal of Catholic opinion to your digital library of searchable, interactive content. 26 CONSCIENC E There are many reasons why women need abortions. But what holds true in all situ-ations is that a woman will do whatever she must in order not to carry the preg-nancy to term. She may wish that she had not become pregnant in the first place, although this is not always the case. For example, at the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) , after Hurricane Katrina we heard from many women whose pregnancies had been planned and desired, but whose lives had radically changed. Nor does it require a hurricane to turn a wanted pregnancy into one that is no longer welcomed. When a woman decides, for whatever reason, that she cannot continue a pregnancy, access to safe abortion is a blessing, as the Reverend Katherine Ragsdale said in 2007 speech delivered before an abortion clinic under siege from protestors. If we continue to leave abortion out of t he reproduct ive rights and healt h toolkit, we misunderstand the battle for women’s healthcare, become distracted from our agenda and cede the upper hand to our opponents. Dr. George Tiller, unwavering in his support for abortion rights and women’s autonomy, and ultimately murdered for his work by an antiabortion zealot, had great clarity about this point, saying, “Make no mis-take, this battle is about self-determina-tion by women of the direction and course of their lives and their family’s lives. Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams. Abortion is a matter of sur-vival for women.” Tiller’s public avowal of abortion rights as essential to women’s autonomy is an eloquent reminder of what we must do now. Contrary to Melinda Gates, debate about abortion is essential to achieving a consensus that women should be the ones with the power to make their own reproductive decisions. It is past time for women’s health advo-cates to boldly affirm that safe, accessible and voluntary abortion is both a social and individual good and an essential aspect of basic human rights. The wall between abortion and contraception stands in our way. Let’s bring it down. n

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