Abortion has never been “my issue”. But a recent trip to Lansing on June 12, 2012 changed all of that. On that day, an activist and advocate was born. As I watched the House Committee on Health Policy hearing on the abortion omnibus package of bills, I saw only men, male after male, talk about what we should do about women’s reproductive health. My frustration level rose steadily. When Chairwoman Gail Haines noted that that she could see no other business, even though over ninety women were staring at her, waiting their turn to testify, my anger went through the roof.

Now and activist and advocate for women in Michigan, here is my take on the current debate on HB 5711, 5712, & 5713. Increased regulations, 20 week abortion ban, screening for coercion, and $1 million required malpractice coverage all serve to snatch away the most basic and essential care a woman can have.

Tighter regulations, referred to as “Surgery Centers” sound good. Who doesn’t want a clean clinic? Who doesn’t want to feel like someone else is watching out for those women? But the reality is, these centers will put clinics out of reach for those in society who need the clinic the most. If the clinic becomes a free-standing surgery clinic, they will have to charge more, and lose the clientele they were created to serve. This isn’t feasible. It sets aside the very people that need the clinic the most.

The 20-weeks ban is problematic because fetal testing can’t occur until after 18 weeks. That leaves only a 2-week window in which to have the tests, get the results, emotionally digest the result and make one of the most important decisions a woman can make, schedule another appointment, and have the abortion if that is what is necessary. I can hardly get in to see my doctor for a persistent knee pain in two week’s time, let alone complete all that a decision of this magnitude entails. This ban will effectively eliminate abortions for fetuses that are not, and never will be, viable, will cause women undue stress and horror if they are required to carry the fetus to term, and deliver it stillborn, or watch it die. Why?

Women are coerced into abortions, and we need to screen for it! This, I believe, is a claim originating from people who are completely out of touch with the reality of life in poverty. There are more women who are forced into pregnancy, and prevented from aborting than there are women who are coerced into abortion. The result is a society in which we have many children who are not wanted, not supported, and not given access to health care and a quality of life that they need, and often used as pawns in a scheme to control women’s lives. If you care about children, support the ones we have. If you are looking to “save” the ones we are about to have, think about supporting them.

Requiring doctors to purchase $1 million dollars in malpractice coverage will also reduce the accessibility of abortions. It pushes doctors into a position in which they have no other choice but to cease providing desperately needed health care for women. Perhaps some will, but at the very least it appears tactical because the only alternative to paying the unfairly exorbitant fee is to not pay it, therefore reducing another doctor to whom women might have access.

The issue is two-fold: first, it’s about the problem of blocking access to those in our society who are without means, and keeping them there by saddling them with a bunch of kids they don’t want, and a government who won’t pay for them. So then what? A woman is left with performing the abortion herself, which entails a severe threat to her health. Abortions will continue to happen, whether or not there are clinics that are providing assistance and care. Can we please ensure that at the very least, we are past the point in this country where women are hunkered down in the bathroom with a coat hanger?

Secondly, in a paternalistic society, women are sick and tired of the feeling that men are setting the rules about what they can and can’t do, say, think, or how they can or can’t be. Many feel that this is just another brick in that wall. I think that captures a lot of the frustration we have recently seen and heard around this issue. Men do not trust women to make this decision, but women are really the only ones who can make the best choice on this issue, experientially speaking.

So I want to urge our representatives, in view of all of the women who stood to speak and were ignored in Lansing, in view of all of the women who are living in poverty and have no way out, in view of women who have means, but no reproductive freedom, please take a stand for women! Respect our right to make our own decisions about our own bodies. Don’t take that decision away from us. Trust us to do what is best, and give us the opportunity to do so.