Reproductive Rights – Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice For All

Reproductive rights activists around the country celebrated the decisive defeat at the ballot box on November 4 of attempts to ban or limit abortion rights in South Dakota, Colorado, and California.

Unfortunately, four other ballot initiatives–to ban gay marriage and
adoption by unmarried couples–succeeded. These initiatives–in
California, Arkansas, Arizona, and Florida–were defeats not only for
the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, or GLBT community, but
also for the reproductive rights community and for anyone who believes
in freedom, equality, and fairness.

Reproductive rights mean more than the right to terminate a
pregnancy, as explained in the Center for American Progress’s 2006
publication, "More Than a Choice."
In fact, a progressive reproductive rights agenda should encompass the
ability to become a parent and to parent with dignity, to determine
whether and when to have children, to have a healthy pregnancy, and to
have healthy and safe families and relationships.

All of these issues were at stake in the 2008 ballot
initiatives-both the measures that voters rejected, and the ones that
passed into law. Specifically:

  • South Dakota‘s Measure 11 would have banned
    abortion with nominal exceptions for rape, incest, and the life or
    health of the woman. Designed as a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade,
    the ban clearly would have interfered with a woman’s ability to assess
    her own life circumstances and decide whether to become a parent. By
    impeding a physician’s ability to provide a pregnant woman with all
    appropriate medical care, it also would have jeopardized the right to a
    healthy pregnancy for women who want to carry current or future
    pregnancies to term. Voters rejected this dangerous law by 55 to 45
  • Colorado‘s Amendment 48 would have
    defined an embryo as a person, giving legal rights to every embryo
    beginning at fertilization. The impact of this "personhood" approach
    would have gone far beyond outlawing abortion. Bestowing legal rights
    on embryos would have prohibited the use of several types of birth
    control, and some practices to address infertility. It also might have
    prevented doctors from treating ectopic pregnancies, thereby
    threatening women’s future fertility and even their lives. This law
    would thus have obstructed many women from preventing a pregnancy, some
    women from ending unwanted pregnancies, and other women from becoming
    parents when they desperately wish to do so. Voters rejected the
    "personhood" amendment 73 to 27 percent.
  • California‘s
    Proposition 4 would have changed the state constitution to require
    doctors to notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor.
    This proposed law ignored the rights of young women to make their own
    decisions about whether or not to become parents. It also would have
    undermined ethical high-quality health care by forcing health providers
    to violate patient confidentiality, and it would have placed vulnerable
    teens at risk for family violence, homelessness, and forced reporting
    of abuse under unsafe circumstances. Recognizing that this law would
    not appropriately address at-risk family situations or create
    healthier, happier families, voters rejected the amendment 52 to 48


In all of these cases, voters recognized what was at stake, and
voted against restrictions on reproductive freedom. But in four other
cases, that didn’t happen:

  • Arkansas residents voted to prohibit unmarried
    people, whether single or in heterosexual or same-sex couples, from
    adopting or fostering children. This effort, motivated by blatant
    homophobic intolerance, will prevent many caring, responsible adults
    from becoming parents. Sadly, this mean-spirited measure passed at a
    time when 3,700 children in Arkansas are in state custody awaiting
    loving homes.
  • In Arizona, California, and Florida,
    voters approved constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage.
    These laws undermine families and relationships, and in many cases, the
    ability to become a parent or to parent with dignity. These laws also
    relegate one group of people to second-class citizenship, denying them
    rights and responsibilities that most Americans take for granted simply
    because they fell in love with someone society deems the wrong person.

Reproductive rights are about far more than abortion — they also
encompass contraception, adoption, and intimate relationships,
including marriage. The ability to manage our fertility through
contraception and, when necessary, abortion, enables us to plan our
families and to determine whether, when, and with whom to have
children. Adoption, too, allows caring adults to become parents and
form loving families. And marriage provides legal and social benefits
that make it easier to care for one another and to raise children with
the security and resources they need to thrive.

These rights are indivisible, and defending them comes not only from
a concern for women or for the GLBT community. Reproductive rights are
about nothing less than the ability to chart one’s own course in
life–to make decisions about love, sex, and family without government
interference or discrimination. That ability is central to core
American values of freedom, equality, and fairness. It is time for
progressives to join together in support of a complete and
comprehensive reproductive rights agenda that advances liberty and
justice for all.

This article was first posted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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  • invalid-0

    Thank you Shira for articulating in very specific terms and using the most recent examples, the very core of what SIECUS – the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States – has been working towards for several years and continues to work towards today. LGBT rights, reproductive rights, sexual rights, and women’s rights are intricately interwoven and share the very core of what you state as “the ability to chart one’s own course in life–to make decisions about love, sex, and family without government interference or discrimination.” SIECUS, because of its crossover into all of these communities (with the goal to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights), seeks to secure the adoption of this shared agenda among our friends and colleagues throughout the progressive movement. We appreciate you articulating the commonalities these communities share in such a clear and direct way.

  • invalid-0

    I notice that you continually use the word “right” throughout your article. Yet I want to kindly ask you to justify the idea that women have a “right” to an abortion. By justify I mean establish on the basis of some immutable law. You’ll find that you cannot do this—hence your position is simply an opinion you have to assert. And if ethics is nothing more than opinion (whether the majority opinion does not cease to make it an opinion) then I am equally justified in asserting that parents have the right to kill their children at any age. On what basis would you call my opinion “wrong”? These are questions you should consider. Ultimately, ethics has to be based on an eternal, unchanging law. God has revealed that law to mankind, and He has instructed us concerning when life begins. Thank you for taking a moment to read this.

  • invalid-0

    define fetus
    define brainactivity

    If fetus has brainactivity
    fetus = sentientbeing
    fetus = cellmass
    End If

    If fetus = cellmass
    If rape or incest
    delete fetus
    host choice
    End If
    maintain fetus
    Until fetus is incubated
    Exit Do
    End If


  • invalid-0

    The Bible is an adult fairytale, and a particularly gruesome one at that. It’s not the revealed word of ‘God’; it’s a storybook, much like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Thus, who really cares what it says? I know I don’t.

  • therealistmom

    Oh you mean gruesome like, oh, I dunno…



    Happy shall he be,
    that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.


    Oh, and this god guy loves children too…



    Withhold not
    correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall
    not die.

    Thou shalt beat him
    with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.


    He’s really pro-life when it comes to pregnant women too… I guess it’s ok to kill the "unborn" when they worship a different god than you. That explains the support for being in Iraq.


    Samaria shall become
    desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the
    sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with
    child shall be ripped up.


    I think Steven King would make lighter bedtime reading for my kids frankly.






  • invalid-0

    Conservative cognitive dissonance:

    1. Starting two wars in two years is perfectly compatible with being ‘pro-life’.
    2. Voluntarily bombing innocent people in Vietnam is perfectly compatible with being ‘pro-life’.
    3. Authorising torture of detainees is perfectly compatible with being ‘pro-life’.
    4. Vetoing expanded child health insurance funding is perfectly compatible with being ‘pro-life’.

    The hypocrisy, it burns.

  • invalid-0

    And that’s why everything you will ever say is unjustified opinion. If knowledge isn’t rooted in an immutable, eternal mind then there is no knowledge at all. The irony of attacking the Bible is irrational is that it alone furnishes with a cogent epistemology (Prov. 1:7, Col. 2:3). On what basis would you argue, then, that the Bible is a fairy-tale? Opinion? Then why I should care?

  • invalid-0


    Unfortunately, your argument that God is evil puts you in a lose-lose situation. To judge God as evil you must have a standard for what entails evil. Now, if you choose the Bible as your standard then you’re forced to admit that God’s punishment on unbelievers is just. If you don’t choose the Bible then you’re merely begging the question because you’ve imposed a standard on God that does not apply to God. And what is this standard? Your own opinion? Who cares, then, whether you think God is mean for punishing the wicked? You might as well say that those who give to charity are wicked and deserve to die. Your argument reduces to absurdity.

  • invalid-0

    I’m not a neo-con; the neo-cons are a joke and I don’t think its hard to argue that most of them are Christian in name only. As for 4, you’ve presented a false dichotomy. Government intervention isn’t the only way to help children, in fact government intervention in health care is one of the reasons health care costs have skyrocketed and one of the reasons why doctors hate their jobs.

    Your straw man… just got burned.

  • invalid-0

    If you’re trying to use VB then you need Dim not Define. Also, “then” doesn’t go on a new line. And please indent your if-then nests; your code is sloppy.

  • therealistmom

    To judge something as evil, whether it is the fairy-tale god of the Bible or the neighbor down the street who beats his wife, I have to have a basis for evil. You don’t need an "eternal mind" beyond the collective morality derived by humankind. We as a species have derived a basic sense of "morality" that likely initially derived from the necessity of being together as social groups for survival and developed from there as we discovered empathy. I don’t have to believe in the sky-fairy to know that stealing from someone is hurtful to them, or if I kick them it is painful. The "golden rule" precept has come about independently in pretty much every single culture on earth, with or without religion- because human beings developed these ideas.


    You’re playing circular logic with five-dollar words, and it is less than impressive. I don’t have to believe in "god" to know hypocrisy when I see it.  One cannot claim that "god" impels you to enforce pregnancy upon women out of concern for the fetus when that same "god" commits infinitely heinous acts against humankind, including infanticide and forced abortion. 


    The basis that the bible is a fairy tale comes from simple logic. There is no "proof" of the existence of the Judeo-Christian god than there is of Zeus, Zoroaster, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Bible in and of itself cannot be proof, as that is circular logic- "the bible is the word of god, god is the truth, therefore the bible is true, therefore god exists because the bible says he does". 

  • emma

    No, health care costs have spiked due to the massive administrative costs of employing an excessively large bureaucracy which is necessary in a complicated system of multiple payers. It costs a great deal of money to employ staff to fulfil such functions as investigating people attempting to obtain health insurance (pre-existing conditions and so on), staff to find reasons to excuse the insurance funds from having to pay treatment costs, to handle lawsuits resulting from unreasonable denials of care, and so on and so forth. This is the primary reason health costs per capita in the US are higher than anywhere else in the developed world. It’s not a straw person argument, I’m sorry to have to tell you.


    Putting ideology before kids’ health is indicative of skewed priorities, to put it as kindly as possible.


    As to the part about neo-cons being Christians ‘in name only’ – I call ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy. That’s in addition to the fact that they’re not all Christians.


    In your posts below, you’re begging the question all over the place with the ‘god gave us absolute morality, the bible is true, thus there’s only one true source of absolute morality’ stuff. Every society, including non Judeo-Christian ones, have similar moral bases – that killing people is bad, that stealing is bad, and so on. The golden rule, and all that. Plus it’s odd, isn’t it, that there are so many Christians in prison within the US.