Today Lisa Barstow, a Republican State Committee Member from Brookline, wrote in a letter printed in the Boston Globe, “The morning-after pill is available to young people at the drugstore. Abortion pills are available from any doctor. Schools give out free condoms like candy, and there is no limit to condom accessibility at every dime store. There are abortion clinics throughout Massachusetts. How much easier can it be to prevent unwanted pregnancy? What more do Democrats want out of this issue?”
This sentiment is alarming and dangerous for the women of Massachusetts. At NARAL Pro-Choice we fend off attacks to women’s access to basic health care every day. Did Ms. Barstow miss that a 20 week abortion ban – which does not include exemptions for cases of rape or to save a woman’s life – passed in Congress YESTERDAY?
Most importantly, we know first-hand that even in a state like Massachusetts women struggle to access the reproductive health care they need. The bottom line is if you are a low-income or young woman in Massachusetts, you still have tremendous barriers to accessing basic health care.
- In Massachusetts we’re fighting bills that limit abortion to 20 weeks, criminalize doctors who provide abortion, require a 24 hour wait period, ban “partial birth” abortions, and allow you to cherry pick that your state tax dollars don’t go to abortion. In every state budget there is an effort to defund family planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs. And on top of that, we have only a slim pro-choice majority in the Massachusetts House of Representatives—only 7 votes—which means we don’t have much of a margin to defeat these bills.
- Many school districts in Massachusetts don’t teach sex-ed, and some school districts teach abstinence only education that promotes medical inaccuracies about contraceptive use and abortion access. Not to mention that very few schools provide free condoms to teens despite research that demonstrates that it’s an effective tool for decreasing unplanned pregnancies and teen STI rates.
- There are actually only nine abortion providers in the state, most of which are in Eastern Massachusetts, and for some women the closest provider is out of state.
- Anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” that lie to women about their options and the medical implications of having an abortion outnumber actual clinics in Massachusetts 3:1.
- Emergency contraception is only just now (as in this month) becoming available to young women under the age of 17, and the cost is prohibitively high for many women at $50.
- While a young woman under the age of 18 can consent to her own prenatal care, she cannot consent to terminating her own pregnancy. If she cannot obtain parental consent, she must go before a judge for consent, which delays abortion care and may result in a more invasive procedure.
- Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, fully insured women can now access no-copay birth control. Even so, insurance companies are interpreting the law differently, not allowing women to access many kinds of contraception. And this doesn’t take into account women without access to insurance.
- Not every insurance company or employer provides insurance coverage for abortion care, making the procedure unattainable for low-income women who are forced to pay out of pocket.
Promoting inaccuracies, like in those in this letter to the editor, do a disservice to us all by dismissing and minimizing the real challenges many women face in accessing health care. At NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, we advocate for all women to have equal access to health care. This is a battle we are actively fighting every day.
To be clear, in this US Senate race, there is only one pro-choice candidate who will stand with women and ensure their rights and access to reproductive health care: Ed Markey. There are no scare tactics, just the real lives of real women in the balance.
So what more do we want, Ms. Barstow? We want politicians to stop making medical decisions for women. We want to live in a society where we trust women to make the choices that are best for them and their families. And we want guaranteed access, without waiting periods or other medically unnecessary barriers, to reproductive health services that are our constitutional right.