Despite facts showing abortions in the US are at an all time low, Senators Hatch and Nelson plan to introduce an amendment to the Senate version of the health care bill that is virtually identical to that introduced in the House by Representatives Stupak and Pitts. An amendment that would turn back the clocks to a time before the Roe v. Wade decision, leaving the vast majority of women and young girls at extreme risk.
Many on the far right see the health care reform bill as a means to reverse Roe. Bishop Tobin of the Catholic Church was recently quoted as saying the US should return to the time before Roe.
Prior to Roe, abortions were illegal in most states with the rare exception of saving the mother’s life. What sprang up in the wake of abortion being illegal was a back alley abortion trade that was barbaric, often resulting in infection, infertility, and death. By the end of the 1960s leading up to Roe, states began realizing that something had to be done. Abortions were on the rise, putting women and young girls at great risk each year. Moreover, The University of California School of Public Health estimated that before 1966, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 women died each year in the U.S. from complications of illegal abortions. [….]
In 1967, Colorado became the first state to decriminalize abortion, leaving it to a decision to be made between doctor and patient. The legislation was introduced by then future Colorado governor Richard Lamm who was a freshman state legislator at the time. Lamm’s proposal, “based on the recommendations of the American Law Institute, allowed a three-doctor panel to approve abortions in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal defects, to save a woman’s life or if the pregnancy threatened her physical or mental health.” [“Ground zero on abortion,” Rocky Mountain News, April 2007]. The article goes on to state:
In 1966, just one therapeutic abortion was performed at Denver General Hospital under the old law, which allowed abortion only to save a woman’s life or prevent serious bodily injury. That same year, 27 women were admitted to the hospital because of botched abortion attempts, and 208 girls ages 12 to 19 gave birth there.
“Prior to that bill, it was just totally illegal, and all the abortions were in back rooms,” said John Bermingham, a Denver Republican who was the bill’s chief Senate sponsor. “(The bill) just seemed like the right thing to do. Back-room abortions were disgraceful.”
In 1970, New York realized the problems with illegal abortion and in an unprecedented vote wherein one assemblyman changed his vote from no to yes, the state’s legislature decriminalized abortion, saying that it was between a woman and her doctor. [See video footage of the vote.]
In September 2008, HealthDay published an overview of a report, Trends in the Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions, 1974 to 2004, [….] showing abortion rates in the US is at an all time 30-year low. The most dramatic statistic is among teenage girls, dropping 50%:
While the number of abortions among teens has also dropped dramatically, down 50 percent, abortion rates are still high among older women with children and poor women, according to the report from the Guttmacher Institute.
“There’s been a shift in the population of women obtaining abortions relative to 30 years ago,” said Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at the institute. “They are older, they are more likely to be unmarried, more likely to be mothers, and they are more likely to be women of color.”
The report states that the decline in teen pregnancies and abortions can be attributed a great deal to comprehensive sex education, access to contraceptive services and providing youth with information to help them delay sexual activity.
What is clear here is that e cannot afford to go back to the 1960s when on average, 5,000 to 10,000 women died from illegal abortions. What is clear is that we are winning the battle to preserve the sanctity of life through “comprehensive sex education, access to contraceptive services and providing youth with information to help them delay sexual activity.”
We cannot afford to allow Senators Hatch and Nelson derail health care reform for those who suffer from a lack of quality affordable health care the most, women and young girls. Take a moment to take action and sign Planned Parenthood’s petition.