My Point of View: Access to abortion makes it safer to go through pregnancy

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

One thing I remember about my grandmother is her perception that husbands used to be able to cheat on their wives and the wives had to just accept it, but not vice versa, and she hated it.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

That was back in the day when married women were still often referred to as “Mrs.” followed by their husband’s first and last names, their own identities entirely subsumed in everything from newspaper records to church recipe books.

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This signaled, of course, that women belonged to their husbands. Under patriarchy, women are property.

Women hadn’t yet gained the right to their own bank accounts and may not have even had control of their own earnings. It was much more difficult to leave a marriage with little financial means and without no-fault divorce laws.

Thankfully, much has changed, but it would be a mistake to think it’s permanent. We can go backwards, and Republicans are trying to do that.

Last month, Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch’s hopes for a third child were crushed again when she found out her very wanted pregnancy was non-viable. After a previous difficult miscarriage experience, she decided her best option was to get an abortion.

Just one month later, her choice would now be illegal because of the recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling that reinstates an 1864 abortion ban, which passed long before Arizona became a state (1912) and women gained the right to vote (1920). The Arizona Legislature had refused to repeal the law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in 2022.

After Arizona’s decision, Trump hastily claimed that he wouldn’t sign a national abortion ban if he’s elected president again.

There’s no reason to trust Trump’s word, but his statement reveals that he’s worried about continued political fallout after his three Supreme Court justice picks were instrumental in overturning Roe.

Want to know what’s especially gross about the 1864 law? Arizona’s then-Speaker of the House, William Claude Jones, married a succession of young girls, ages 12, 15 and 14. Today we would consider him a child rapist, but this was back when women and girls had even fewer legal rights than in my grandmother’s time. They couldn’t even own property in their own names.

Abortion is women’s health care. Access to abortion makes it safer for women to go through pregnancy and childbirth and create a family. Many complications can arise during pregnancy, and when the government tells women what they can and can’t do, it makes pregnancy more uncertain and hazardous.

The Republican Party has been taken over by extremists who want to take away women’s reproductive rights. These are rights that our mothers and grandmothers worked for after shocking losses and close calls made them demand something better for their daughters. They understood the cost of these bans.

It gets worse. Extremist Republicans don’t intend to stop at banning abortion.

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 and conservative operatives like Russell Vought and William Wolfe make clear that they want to end no-fault divorce, restrict access to contraceptives, end sex education in schools, ban surrogacy and IVF and overturn Obergefell (legalized gay marriage).

Wolfe says this is “to restore the American family.” This is nonsense. What extremists really want to restore is patriarchy, which necessarily means taking rights and freedoms away from women and girls.

Even in Minnesota, our right to abortion care is under attack in two ways. One, a national abortion ban would preempt our state’s abortion rights. Our U.S. Rep. Brad Finstad supports a national ban on abortion, putting all women in Minnesota at risk of losing access to vital reproductive care.

A second attack is a court challenge to medication abortion based on another really old law, the Comstock Act of 1873, which prohibits the mailing of numerous items, including abortifacients. Our U.S. Sen.Tina Smith is leading the effort to repeal the Comstock Act, but it won’t pass the House with its do-nothing Republican majority, which is also passively helping autocratic Russia slowly crush independent Ukraine as it runs out of critical U.S. arms to defend itself.

Patriarchy promotes its own brand of deviance.

On Monday morning, Alabama Sen. Katie Britt defended President Trump on FOX News ahead of his election interference trial, a huge cross necklace flashing on her neck.

I can only imagine my grandmother’s reaction if she saw a woman flaunting her Christianity while defending a man on trial for cheating on his wife by having sex with a porn actress and then arranging hush money payments to her so that it wouldn’t impact his election chances.

My grandmother was a devout Christian who raised five kids on a farm and probably never thought of herself as a feminist, but she kept a weather eye toward patriarchy. I think she would have seen through this whole charade.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.