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After Roe, Moving the Choice Discussion Forward

Americans want a plan to protect women's reproductive health while reducing unintended pregnancies. Rep. Louise Slaughter says she has one.
 
 
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On Tuesday, we proudly recognized a date when over three decades ago the Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to privacy, taking pride in the fact that thirty-five years ago our nation was fortunate enough to have a court that actually protected a women's right to make her own choices about her reproductive health. Yesterday, we took stock in how far we have come as a country. Today, the day after, let us look at the next steps we must take to move forward.

We find ourselves today with a positive foundation for protecting a woman's right to choose. The American people widely stand in support of Roe v. Wade with 60% believing the decision should be upheld. We, as a nation, are essentially agreed that women, not politicians or the courts should make their own personal choices. We have worked so hard to successfully establish and maintain this broad coalition of support and should be proud of what has been accomplished.

Now, recognizing that public opinion is largely on our side, let us take the next step together to move the discussion forward. While continuing to ensure that a women's right to choose is protected, let us expand and solidify our broad coalition by permanently including another critical component, prevention, into the conversation.

The United States has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies among industrialized nations. One out of every three girls becomes pregnant before the age of 20. By talking about preventing unintended pregnancies in addition to choice, we can alter the terms of the debate in order to make a difference for young women.

I am the author of H.R. 819, the Prevention First Act. With 160 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, this legislation provides an innovative way to protect women's reproductive health while reducing unintended pregnancies, decreasing the spread of STDs, and providing women, regardless of income, with the tools they need to make the best decisions possible for themselves. My bill takes very definitive steps to achieve these goals by providing comprehensive access to all forms of contraception and sex education.

The American people agree with this; an overwhelming majority supports the comprehensive approach that the Prevention First Act takes. You may be surprised to know that a majority of voters, 76%, support comprehensive sex education in public schools. You may be even further surprised to know that a majority of each of the following groups supports it as well: Democrats, Independents, Republicans, Catholics, and evangelical Christians. In addition, 75% of voters "strongly favor" protecting the right of individuals to get contraception without government interference or intrusion. Finally, 73% "strongly favor" making it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives.

Leaders of conservative organizations interested in scoring cheap political points, not solving problems, have sought to limit women's rights and freedoms by imposing stricter penalties and enacting laws to criminalize doctors and women. However, at the same time, these leaders have done next to nothing to ensure that millions of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are prevented in the first place. If you oppose abortion, you must be for preventing unintended pregnancies.

My bill, the Prevention First Act, is the logical next step to ensure the reproductive health of women across the country. Today, on the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, let us move forward to meet this challenge together.

Elected to Congress in 1986, Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) serves as the ranking Democrat on the prestigious House Rules Committee.