Op-Ed: We Need to Change Policy Direction to Make a Difference in Women’s Lives

Roz Ressner | February 9, 2015 | Opinion
Women have listened closely to Congressman Chris Smith’s concerns; now it’s up to him to return the favor and listen to us

Roz Ressner
Women have listened to Congressman Chris Smith’s speeches on abortion issues. We take into consideration the convictions that propel him to enact healthcare legislation that impacts a woman’s most personal medical needs, but now ask that he listen to those voices he professes to care about. They are young teens and women — married and single moms, those who are childless, those unable to conceive.

To a great extent, the ability to provide a safe, loving family environment is dependent upon quality of education and the financial stability provided to women. For most, bringing a child into the world is a joyous event, but oftentimes it is overshadowed by untenable situations — low-paying jobs with little or no access to healthcare, too-short maternity leave, no flex time when children are sick. Fear of losing one’s job often results in children being left to fend for themselves or unsafe childcare. We can all agree that desperate women make desperate decisions.

Women have listened to Congressman Smith’s speech about HR7, misleadingly called “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Its real premise is that funds derived from an employee’s health insurance plan or pretax personal flex-spending account cannot be used to purchase contraceptives — this being tantamount to so-called “abortion services” or taxpayer dollars paying for government-funded abortions. It further penalizes employers whose insurance packages include reproductive health benefits.

It is a known fact that the pill helps to reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer and is used for other serious conditions related to women’s health. Unless one believes that the pill (or other forms of contraception) is solely used as a form of abortion or a prevention of pregnancy, then “The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is truly a misnomer, allowing “fiction to win over fact.” Therefore, to deny insurance benefits forcing women to pay out-of- pocket for their medical expenses creates undue hardship to already strained budgets.

Congressman Smith has voted repeatedly for the Personhood Bill, which gives a fetus the same rights as an adult human, bans birth control, stem-cell research, and in-vitro fertilization. For thousands of women who require medical intervention, this bill would seriously threaten their ability to seek IVF treatment to become parents.

Congressman Smith rails against the sex-trafficking trade. Yet he did not vote for The Violence Against Women Act, even though hundreds of women are victims of rape, kidnapping, and forced prostitution every day. Women in trouble or who require affordable reproductive healthcare and screenings visit Planned Parenthood’s 700 health centers in the U.S. This provider offers educational programs that teach teens about the seriousness and great responsibility of parenthood. Yet these clinics are constantly under fire because 3 percent of their healthcare is for abortion services. Alas, there will always be abortions, safe, botched, or worse. Is there anything we can do to alter this landscape?

Yes, women have listened to Mr. Smith’s impassioned speeches, and although we respect his beliefs, they have caused a great divide. We ask now that his indefatigable energy be used to make a constructive difference; first, by promoting sex education — proven successful in lowering the risk of teen pregnancy and reducing abortion rates — and secondly, by enacting legislation that supports training, for higher-paying jobs, income equality, affordable housing, and childcare. Only then will women be able to make positive, empowered decisions. If asked, women will tell him that all of the above would be the answer to their prayers. Women have listened and now respectfully ask that he would do the same.

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