Commentary

Fifty years later, our lives still at risk

On the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, Americans must take action to ensure access to critical health care

January 22, 2023 6:00 am

In overturning Roe v. Wade last year, the U.S. Supreme Court threw abortion rights back to the states, creating a patchwork of health care access across the country. (Jim Small/Arizona Mirror)

Fifty years ago, a very different U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

Radical right-wing extremists control the Supreme Court and serve in elective office. We have fewer freedoms than we did a generation ago. We suffer, and women die because of it. When the Supreme Court ruled last June to strip away our rights to abortion care, it opened the floodgates for states to pass abortion bans and put our health at risk.

One in three women across America have already lost access to abortion. And more restrictions are coming.

Fifty years after Roe, we all live in a separate and unequal country where you may or may not have the right to receive critically needed medical care.

We already see the effects in our communities. State abortion bans prevent cancer patients from getting chemotherapy. Women with chronic diseases can’t get the medications they rely on for treatment, because they could or might become pregnant. Patients with ectopic pregnancies or undergoing miscarriages can’t get life-saving medical care.

States that banned abortion already had higher maternal death rates and fewer doctors. Conservative legislators in many of those states have refused to expand Medicaid to more working class families, putting their health systems further into crisis and causing more hospital shutdowns — especially in rural areas.

One in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45, which means someone you know and love has had an abortion. Our right to abortion and our right to health care itself should not depend on where we live. But here we are.

So-called “pro-life” politicians are performative politics at its worst. State-level conservative legislators in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia preach about sanctity of life yet vote against expanding health care to the poor. Their votes sentence millions with treatable diseases and medical conditions to go without help, some even to die with illnesses that could have been cured. Right-wing politicians in Congress create a crisis around the debt ceiling so they can push for more health care cuts through Medicare and Medicaid. Yet they trumpet ever more national abortion bans.

So what do we do about it?

Right-wing activists and donors spent the last 50 years working towards this day. We live in the world they wanted to create. We must do the hard work of building a better world for all of us.

Vote — not just in presidential years, and not just for presidents. Elected officials in the House and Senate, in the state capitols and governors’ mansions, write the laws we live under. If judges are on the ballot in your state (such as the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat up for election this spring), take the time to research them all and only vote for the candidates who will rule in support of our rights and freedoms.

Run for office. If your local elected officials or local judges aren’t representing you, run to replace them.
Fund the grassroots organizations that work year-in, year-out on defending our freedoms, including our right to health care, and advocate for expanding and improving our access to care.

Pay attention to what our municipal governments, and our state legislators are up to. Many states are considering abortion bans and other restrictions on our health care. Your legislators need to hear from you to stop it, and focus instead on making health care more affordable and available to all.

States like Oregon, New Mexico, Minnesota and West Virginia are considering health care expansions on the state level to make insurance more affordable, including a public option and Medicaid buy-in programs. And Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming have yet to expand Medicaid health care to low-income working families in their states.

Your legislators work for you. On this anniversary, tell them to stop attacking our health care and fight to expand it instead. And if they don’t, run to replace them next year.

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Laura Packard
Laura Packard

Laura Packard is a small business owner and stage 4 cancer survivor, and founder of Health Care Voices. She hosts CareTalk, a weekly consumer call-in show on health care and health insurance issues in America on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. Follow @lpackard on Twitter or email her at [email protected]

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