The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling in March that may hurt my daughter and many other Texas women as well. The court upheld provisions of an anti-abortion law that have resulted in women’s health centers having to close. The regulations mean that a woman seeking not just an abortion, but preventive health screenings and care—perhaps someone you or I love, maybe even you—will be confronted by a painful reality: Health centers that performed safe and legal abortions and provide life-saving health care in Texas are being forced to shutter their doors.
When a woman sits down with her doctor and decides to have an abortion, the negative consequences of the Fifth Circuit’s decision are the last thing she needs to deal with. The many circumstances a woman might experience when she gets to this point range from medical challenges to issues of rape and more.
The court said the law “on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman,” but I disagree. This ruling means that a woman will bear a great burden.
Unable to turn to the doctor she trusts, women will be left to travel a long way to one of the few remaining health centers in the region at a cost she might not be able to afford. She may need to find and pay for a caregiver for the children she already has, and what’s more, lose time from work. She will be subjected to a kind of scrutiny about decisions she makes regarding her body that no man would ever be asked to consider.
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As a pastor to women and families making medical and spiritual decisions, I recognize the importance of protecting the patient. The court, to the contrary, takes us a step backward, to a time when women were merely property and subject to their husbands’ reign.
Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous things a woman’s body can go through. The court’s decision threatens to bring us back to unsafe home remedies and dangerous practices to end pregnancies. The ruling will force women to birth children they can’t care for, those that can’t survive outside the womb, and those that will die because of a lack of access to proper care. Politicians are playing doctor, creating an even more hazardous situation for women, perhaps a woman that you or I love. Or perhaps the woman is you.
When politicians intrude into the private life of a woman, they invade on her sense of sovereignty. As a spiritual leader, I recognize that our state carries a moral responsibility to honor the private, personal freedom to make choices over one’s body. The politicians who bang the drum of “personal freedom,” and in the same breath promote an increased divide between the rich and the poor, need to know that religious people will not stand by and applaud. This quiet decision by our circuit court should concern us all.
Yes, there is a crisis. This is a catastrophe for the women of our state, and Texas politicians are the sole creator and purveyor of it. And it is a blatant political attack on the well-being of Planned Parenthood and all medical professionals who offer a wide range of women’s health care, from cancer screenings to contraception. Women and men who value freedom need to speak up about this.