Op-Ed

I remember the lack of reproductive rights faced in the 1970s. Don’t go back.

In the upcoming governor’s race, incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin has such a poor record in education and health care that he is using abortion, the most polarizing of issues, and often a last resort for conservatives, as his key issue. It takes me back to the 1970s, when I volunteered at the Florence Crittenden Home and Planned Parenthood, another time when women had to fight for the right to choose.

For those who might not know, Florence Crittenden was a home for unwed mothers, serving pregnant women in Lexington from 1894 to 2013. Often these two were located near each other, because Planned Parenthood’s services — pap tests, cancer screenings, birth control— served all women regardless of their choice. In the 70s, they were also dealing with the expansion of abortion rights, which resulted in backlash from conservatives, and acts of violence were committed against places like Planned Parenthood.

Both organizations helped women of reproductive age. Planned Parenthood offered education and birth control options before, during and after pregnancy, while Florence Crittenden offered assistance for those who chose to complete their pregnancies, but had no financial or emotional support system. In working with women at both places, I learned that no matter what the circumstance, private medical decisions should be made between patient and provider. Period.

Bevin’s plan includes taking away health care from 400,000 Kentuckians, including birth control access. Earlier this year, he signed into law a handful of restrictions making it even harder for Kentucky women to make the most personal of choices. The bill that scares me most is HB148: Ban on Abortion. It would ban abortion in Kentucky if the U. S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. With Kavanaugh on the bench, this is far too likely.

Statistics show that prevention, like education, birth control and keeping abortion legal, is the only way to reduce the number of abortions. A record-high 77% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, and banning abortion is not popular in any state.

I was just out of high school in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was passed. Women had the right to vote, but that was about it. My Facebook feed recently had an article that made my female millennial friends check Snopes, only to find it really was true. It listed things a woman could not do in 1973: keeping a job if pregnant (Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978); report sexual harassment at work (first recognized in 1977; defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1980); get a credit card (Equal Opportunity Act 1974); refuse to have sex with her husband (not criminalized until 1993); or have a legal abortion in most states.

Bevin and the religious right try to make us believe that most Kentuckians want his abortion laws, but two-thirds of Kentucky voters (65%) say it is important that women have access to all of the reproductive health care options available, including abortion. Most are smart enough to know that women will still get abortions, but they prefer to keep it safe and legal.

We need a governor who represents Kentucky women. Bevin takes an extreme position of a total abortion ban, including victims of rape, incest and human trafficking. Andy Beshear supports Roe v. Wade and believes in reasonable restrictions on late term abortion.

There is a lot at stake. Thanks to the women who paved the way for abortion rights – to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who upholds these protections, (long may she live!), and to the thousands of millennial voters who came out in 2018.

As a woman who lived through those times, trust me, you don’t want to go back. Can you imagine having to ask for permission to get birth control? Or not having the choice to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from rape? Think about it.

Sarah Moore Katzenmaier, Lexington native, works as a consultant for IBM, and is a photographer in her spare time.

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