We must move beyond bitter abortion debate

T By Mariah Furness
today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of a woman’s right to choose. Thirty years ago the Supreme Court’s monumental decision Roe v. Wade brought us into a new era of reproductive freedom and protection.

Because of this decision, women across the nation won the right to make reproductive choices based on their beliefs and circumstances. This decision also brought major advancements in family planning abilities, medical treatment, access to contraceptives, better sexual education and more.

More than 75 percent of respondents in a recent national poll on attitudes about reproductive choice agreed that “abortion is a personal decision better left in the hands of a woman, her doctor, her family and her God” and that “each woman must make the decision for herself in keeping with her sense of faith and her values.”

The poll was conducted in January 2000 by Celinda Lake of Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates and reached 900 registered voters ages 18 and older, of all religions. The purpose of the poll is to probe attitudes about reproductive choice from an ethical and religious perspective, using clear religious and values language. It is believed to be among the few polls that look at attitudes about abortion from a clearly religious point of view.

Many spiritual people are pro-choice. We are pro-choice not despite of our faith, but because of it. Because of the diversity of religious beliefs about abortion and for the sake of religious freedom, we seek to ensure that every woman is free to make decisions about when to have children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs. We oppose efforts to establish by law one religious perspective on reproductive choice above all others and thereby limit the free exercise of religion by all.

For the first time since abortion became legal, anti-choice forces control both houses of Congress and the White House. Anti-choice politicians in Minnesota also now control the majority of elected positions here. The religious right is demanding its legislative agenda be enacted immediately. We are about to witness an onslaught of anti-choice legislation and judicial nominees; tragically, women, teens and families will be hurt the most.

It is up to us to continue the battle for a just, free and compassionate society. Although we are a generation that did not experience life without the right to choose, we cannot take that right for granted. We cannot let the voices of the past go unheard. We must keep a woman’s right to choose safe and legal for the next generation. Now is the time to take up the call to action.

We must move beyond the bitter abortion debate to ensure that every child is wanted, that every pregnant woman has quality, affordable health care, that all parents – male and female – understand their responsibilities and have the support they need, that children are educated about sexuality so they can make responsible decisions and that freedom of choice, basic to our way of life, is preserved.

Mariah Furness is a University senior and a member of the University’s Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Choice, an affiliate of the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]