Seattle Times editorial board member Thanh Tan weighs in on the issue of access to reproductive health care today, arguing that even though Washington is a “good” state on the sliding scale by which we judge birth-control and abortion access in an increasingly anti-choice nation, we need to do much more to ensure that everyone, including low-income people and those living in rural areas, has access to reproductive health care, including abortions.
Pointing to public health budget cuts, the arson at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, and a report this year by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates that found insurance companies were giving out misleading or false information about birth control coverage, Tan writes that “maintaining the existing women’s health infrastructure is challenging.”
“’When access to care is still highly dependent on financial status, racial status, immigrant status or whether you’re Native American or whether you’re in the military — that’s not really equality, and that’s not really good access,” [UW Family Planning Division director Dr. Sarah] Prager says.
“Another contentious issue right now concerns a broad state rule that allows institutions and doctors to refuse to provide abortion care.
“The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has documented situations where women suffering miscarriages or nonviable pregnancies were denied abortions or the care was delayed.
“I get why Catholic-run hospitals are opposed to terminating pregnancies. However, when publicly owned hospitals run by Catholic organizations or a community’s only hospital refuse to provide or refer for a legal procedure, that crosses a line.”
When the right to choose is limited by hospital protocols, health-care hurdles, location, or income, it isn’t really a choice, which is why, as Tan writes, “If we don’t stand up for the rights we have now, they might not be there for us when we need them later.”