Choice and women's health

Nancy Goldstein explains how Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) struck a blow for choice in South Dakota.

Anti-abortion activists pressured the South Dakota Legislature to hold hearings about whether abortion in America is "voluntary and informed." They hoped to create a platform for anti-choice speechifying, but they weren't counting on Lynn Paltrow's expert testimony.

Paltrow testified about how laws intended to restrict abortion hurt pregnant women, even those who intend to become mothers. Laws that treat fetuses like human beings often force hospitals to compromise the health and safety of mothers.
From these cases, Lynn Paltrow offered a grim assessment of the harm that “pro-life” legislation has done in the name of “protecting” the “unborn.” She outlined three actual cases in which hospitals successfully advocated for a cesarean section over the objections of pregnant women and their families by using the anti-abortion argument that fetuses are separate legal persons with independent rights.

The first case ends tragically, with the death of the mother and the fetus; in the second, the forced surgery turns out not to have been necessary; and the couple in the third scenario — devout Christians who are expecting their seventh child — leave the hospital that is trying to force a cesarean section on the mother and successfully have their baby elsewhere, through vaginal delivery.

Having eviscerated the argument that “pro-life” policies support the health, well-being, and autonomy of women who want to carry their pregnancies to term, Paltrow turns to the larger task of outlining genuine protections and supports for pregnant and parenting women.
There's been a lot of talk in liberal circles about the need to reframe or recast the abortion debate. Some image-conscious pro-choicers are desperate not to be seen as pro-abortion. This defensiveness suggests that we've already allowed the anti-abortionists to frame the debate. Only someone with a serious axe to grind could insinuate that "pro-choice" equals "pro-abortion."

Instead of looking for symbolic compromises on parental notification, "partial birth abortion", and other politically sensitive issues, the pro-choice movement should do more to publicize the work of Lynn Paltrow and other women's health advocates who are exposing the right wing's anti-family agenda.

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