April 13, 2009 – What IS reproductive choice?
“It’s a civil right.”
“It’s having the power and resources to make healthy decisions.”
After viewing “Legal But Out of Reach,” a short documentary about six women and their struggle with abortion, the discussion moved to a more personal level. Nicole Goss, an activist with the Chicago Abortion Fund’s My Voice My Choice program, spoke about her own experience with abortion.
“I joined the leadership group because I wanted to have a say in what I did,” said Goss, who was unable to afford the procedure without the help of the group.
Goss has been involved with the My Voice My Choice group to speak at forums tackling the issue of reproductive choice and access to health services. The journey has been a challenging one for Goss because the topic she passionately discusses is not always well received.
“Reproductive justice is often associated with abortion and people are not very receptive to it,” said Goss. “You can’t force a person to learn what they don’t want to hear.”
The general public has often shied away from the “taboo” topic of abortion and the federal government has as well. The Hyde Amendment prevents federal funding to be used for abortions, but many low-income women receiving Medicaid are the ones who seek them, according to the Chicago Abortion Fund.
Without federal assistance, these women are often unsure as to what step to take next.
Pro-life groups do provide other options for women who may not be sure about keeping their child. The Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) provides sidewalk counseling for women walking into abortion clinics to offer them alternatives.
“The help that we offer is kind of like First Aid,” explained John Jansen, project coordinator for PLAL. “We speak with them initially and then give them access to pregnancy resource centers that will provide them with more help.”
However, keeping a child is not the best option for every woman and advocates for health care reform have acknowledged that. Medical professionals like Veronica Bohanan are campaigning for basic health care coverage to include access to services and better education for everyone.
“Two of the big issues right now are abortion and family planning,” said Bohanan, who works at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine. “We have to make this a public issue, not just a women’s movement.”
Members of the group all agreed that access was the key to a woman truly having reproductive choice. The availability of better health care, affordable birth control and morning after pills could allow women more of a say in their personal health.
“Women make 95.5 percent of the decision in choosing a health care plan so shouldn’t it provide more for them?” asked Bohanan.
The group also discussed the benefits of starting comprehensive sex education early on so every child has access to information as they’re growing up. Bohanan believes teaching the basics and outlining consequences that would affect the future is the simplest way to ensure that men and women make the best decisions for themselves before other people can make it for them.
“It’s not about race, sex or gender. It’s about what’s needed,” said Bohanan.
The Neighborhood Writing Alliance and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum are hosting a follow up discussion discussing the issue of sex education more in depth. “Who Framed Sex Ed?” will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 15. The event will be at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, and reservations can be made by calling 312-413–5353.