Last week, more than 50 pro-choice supporters crowded into Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center’s waiting room to celebrate the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal across the U.S.
There have been decades of efforts to restrict women’s access to abortion since that landmark decision in 1973. Two generations of Americans have grown up with Roe v. Wade as the law of the land and have come to expect that this right to privacy is assured.
As women’s reproductive health care advocates, educators and providers for 27 years, we are well aware that the recent elections will bring about greater challenges to women’s control over their own lives. Twenty-nine governors, including Maine’s, are anti-choice, and anti-choice conservatives now control legislatures in 25 of the 50 states. In Congress, we also see that there are fewer pro-choice representatives.
At least four anti-choice bills designed to restrict access to abortion have already been introduced into the 125th Maine Legislature. One — a 24-hour waiting period — would have a particularly negative personal and economic impact on the women from far northern and eastern Maine, many of whom drive more than four hours just to get to us. The overall geography of Maine clearly makes such a restriction an obstacle and the implication that women must be mandated to “think it over” for 24 more hours is insulting.
Mabel Wadsworth Center’s mission is to educate about these threats and help pro-choice supporters advocate for maintaining the reasonable, protective laws we already have here in Maine. Maine law requires that pregnant women be informed of all their options; Maine law requires that an adult family member or other responsible adult be involved in a minor’s decision to have an abortion; Maine law requires education and informed consent for all women seeking abortion care.
We do not need further restrictions.
At Mabel Wadsworth Center, where we provide high-quality, low-intervention prenatal care, birth control, cervical and breast cancer screening, other well-woman gynecological services and abortion care, we know that women are thoughtful about their health decisions. Every woman who comes in for pregnancy information learns all of her options.
Every day we provide a safe, non-judgmental place where women have the time and sense of control they need to think about their options. We trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and then we support them — with our own clinical services or through community referrals.
Protecting women’s health and providing the education and services they need is our job, every day of the year, not just on Roe v. Wade day. The people of Maine can count on Mabel Wadsworth Center and our women’s health partners across the state to work to hold the line for access to all pregnancy choices, but we will need all of our supporters to pay attention and not let complacency override concern for the reproductive rights of all Maine residents.
Ruth L. Lockhart is executive director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor.