Abortion is health care. It shouldn’t be politicized. 

Abortion is a normal part of reproductive health services along with birth control and pre-natal, childbirth and maternity care, and 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45. Someone you know and love has had an abortion. No matter who we are or where we live, our right to abortion and our right to health care itself, should not be up for debate.

Opponents like to say that this is about life. But they have made it clear how little they care about mine. As a cancer survivor, I can’t show up to Planned Parenthood for my routine cancer screening without being yelled at by protesters with bullhorns.

The Supreme Court ruling is already affecting the health care of women across the country: In Dayton, Ohio a woman was diagnosed with cancer but cannot receive chemotherapy until she has an abortion. But Ohio doesn’t allow for her abortion, so this cancer patient will have to travel as far as Indiana to get the needed medical care to save her life. This could have been me. 

The horror of my cancer diagnosis was bad enough. Can you imagine the trauma of being told you have cancer, compounded by having to travel many miles away – if even possible – to get a needed abortion to be eligible for chemotherapy and radiation treatments to save your life? Already there are reports of women with ectopic pregnancies not receiving the emergency care they need, and people with chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis are claiming they are no longer able to receive crucial medications. How many people will die in the name of “life”? 

Republicans in the U.S. House voted against funding baby formula, including Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck, and Doug Lamborn, showing how little they value babies already born. In 12 states, MAGA Republican-controlled state legislators refuse to expand Medicaid, meaning millions of Americans including women of childbearing age are going without health care, and prenatal care, today. 

The radical right wing Supreme Court is mounting the most aggressive nationwide attack on reproductive rights in decades. This comes on the heels of countless coordinated efforts by conservative activists to erode women’s health care at the state level restricting access to abortion. Many of their laws do not even have exceptions for rape or incest and could endanger the health of the woman

This ultra-conservative Supreme Court has now overturned Roe v. Wade itself, robbing millions of Americans of their bodily autonomy and right to make their own decisions about their health care.

Here in Colorado, we are protected because of actions taken on the state level to guarantee the right to an abortion, the Reproductive Health Equity Act. Colorado voters have stepped up again and again to defeat restrictive abortion bans on the ballot. But what about Americans living in the rest of the country, those without the strong health protections we may take for granted here? We cannot rest easy in our own blue enclave, leaving half of the country behind to suffer under their draconian state laws. Health care, including abortion care, is a human right and it should not depend on the whims of conservative legislators or judges.

Now that we’ve lost Roe v. Wade, half of the country has lost access to abortion services because of laws already on their books, including states like Wisconsin and my home state of Michigan. People without means to travel to other states like Colorado won’t have access to abortions. And these extreme MAGA legislators will not stop here: going after birth control is next on right wing legislators’ lists

By criminalizing health-care services, doctors may refuse to treat pregnant people at all for fear of the repercussions of these draconian laws. America already has the highest maternal death rate among industrialized countries, and the shame and fear surrounding any prenatal care may drive more people into the shadows and cause more deaths. Doctors in Alabama already turn away miscarrying patients. This could be America’s future. 

Health-care decisions are personal choices, ones that belong in the hands of individuals and their providers, not politicians. 49 years ago, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling was a milestone for health care and reproductive justice. Today, we must ensure that everyone, regardless of where they live or how much they make, has access to such essential care established half a century ago. 

Someone you know and love will someday need an abortion. Rich people will always have options, but what about the rest of us? Colorado is not the answer to the desperate health care needs of women in half of the country, who cannot afford to take days off from work and travel hundreds or thousands of miles away for basic health care services.

Decisions about our health should always belong to us, not the politicians. Yet the U.S. Senate voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act, 49-51. The Supreme Court may not be an elected body, but we elect the Senators who are blocking the protection of our rights. If the filibuster is standing in the way of the Senate taking action, they must value the lives of Americans over arcane parliamentary procedures.

We must hold our elected officials accountable in November, and vote for health care champions instead that will support and defend our care, including reproductive care and the right to an abortion. 

Laura Packard, of Denver, is founder of Voices of Health Care Action and executive director of Health Care Voter

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