Sadly, many elected leaders today are failing women. They support laws that block access to important reproductive health care, and want to ban all abortion. They want to take us back to a time when women put their lives at risk by trying to self-induce abortions through concoctions and coat hangers. We will not go back to that time. We refuse to go back.
One elected leader, who wants to take us back, is Colorado’s U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner. In the past, as a state legislator, he supported proposals to create fetal personhood which would ban all abortion, and as a candidate for U.S. Senate he avoided the issue, and his record, altogether.
And his stance has not changed. Just last week, I witnessed a chance encounter at the U.S. Capitol. He jokingly shook Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains CEO’s hand and said he “appreciates what Planned Parenthood does.” Then with a big smile, as if there was something funny in his words said, “Just kidding.”
Women’s lives are not jokes, Mr. Gardner.
Your refusal, along with other anti-women’s health Senators, to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland by President Barack Obama is a failure for Colorado women and women across this country.
We are already seeing the disturbing impact these laws have on women. In Texas, women are forced to drive 400 miles to seek the care they need. Imagine having to scrap together gas money, arrange for child care, pay for a hotel and take multiple days off of work, just to see a provider. In Mississippi, women are forced to listen to medically-inaccurate and inflated language about the risks of abortion, a procedure with lower complication rates than a colonoscopy, and then come back again the next day for care. These burdens are real.
In the last five years, 288 restrictions on abortions have been passed by state legislatures. Colorado saw 6 anti-abortion bills introduced this session but our state leaders defeated them because they support women and believe that protecting women’s health is protecting the health of our communities. We see over and over that when women’s health is made a priority, our communities as a whole are healthier. These state leaders accurately represent the two-thirds of Colorado voters who have voted down fetal personhood three times.
Cory Gardner’s refusal to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court may have an enormous impact on these burdensome anti-abortion laws. The case before the court this session, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, considers the Texas law, HB2, which created a tidal wave of unnecessary restrictions on abortion care that has resulted in closure of 75% of the clinics providing abortion care in the state. If the law is upheld it would leave a mere 9-10 health centers that provide abortions care open for the 5.4 million women of reproductive age living in Texas.
Gardner and his anti-women’s health colleagues want to wait for a new President, who they hope will nominate a justice that would eliminate access to safe and legal abortion. In the meantime, with a split court of eight we could see an outcome in Whole Woman’s Health that continues to put millions of women’s lives at risk.
Women’s ability to get care, including safe and legal abortion, should not depend on their zip code. Women in Texas and in Mississippi deserve the same rights as women in Colorado and in any other state.
Planned Parenthood in Colorado calls on Cory Gardner to take his position as a US Senator seriously and do his job. That means fulfilling his Constitutional duty to consider the President’s nominee, it also means protecting the health and rights of millions of women across this country. Reproductive health care isn’t a joke, Mr. Gardner. We refuse to go back. We won’t go back.
Sarah Taylor-Nanista is the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr