By Angela Engel
Throughout the past half century, women’s reproductive rights or denial of those rights has been a pivotal issue in many elections. The emotional buttons of the fundamentalist right have certainly been pushed, but when it comes to protecting the innocent, unfettered conservative ideology has responded by restricting health care access to children, eliminating low-income housing for poor families, cutting funding to at-risk students and schools, short-changing mental health and youth intervention services, and even reducing preschool programs.
Let’s be honest, Republicans are in the habit of claiming a pro-life position and then saying “no” when it comes to making the tough decisions that guarantee children safe living conditions, health care, basic necessities such as food and shelter, and educational opportunities to learn and achieve. We as citizens have tolerated this hypocrisy.
The hard reality continuously omitted in this debate is that hundreds of children in Colorado are waiting adoption. Our state has the fastest growing rate of childhood poverty in the nation. Classrooms are overcrowded and underfunded. Republicans even introduced a bill in the Colorado Legislature to cut the free lunch program. Right-wing candidates such as Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Cory Gardner have promised to roll back the Affordable Health Care Act that guarantees children suffering with illness and disease proper medical care. When it comes to valuing life, it’s time for Republican candidates to put their money where their mouths are.
If religious Conservatives were truly serious about reducing abortions in this country they would fund community health clinics and women’s health care providers like Planned Parenthood. Without these important health services, there would be more unplanned pregnancies and abortions. It is inexcusable that anti-abortion Republican’s demand government keep their hands off their guns, while they have their hands reaching all over women’s uterus. The irony!
As a long time children’s advocate and education leader my decision to support reproductive choice is a morally conscious one. Women’s ‘rights’ and control of our own reproduction is not a political litmus test, it is a criteria for democracy. There are many variations of morality and the attempt to legislate religious faith is a dangerous proposition for a nation that prides itself on liberty and freedom for all.
Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.” The same is true for women. Yet here in the 21st Century we find ourselves with presidential and congressional Republican candidates promising to threaten independence and choice for women. The ‘right’ to contraception, family planning, reproductive education, women’s clinics and even safe abortion is a critical issue to a growing constituency of pro-choice voters, including men and an increasing number of Republicans such as the group Republicans for Choice. I still remember the words of my Catholic Italian grandmother; “Education and control over our own reproduction are the only guarantee towards independence and equality.”
The line must be drawn. Coloradoans deserve political leaders who have the courage to live their personal views of morality and the wisdom not to legislate it for others. Let’s hope the days of women voting against their own self-interests are over. As a mother, I am unwilling to send my daughters back fifty years. They have been raised to be compassionate, thoughtful, and responsible human beings. I want my children – and daughters everywhere – to have the right to determine their own future, to consult with a physician, to seek the counsel of family, and to make the right choice for their individual circumstance and according to their own faith. If politicians intervene in a person’s ability to protect their personal or medical interest, and direct their own bodies, then the claim that we as a nation stand for freedom will be hollow.
Much is riding on this election. Critical budget decisions will be made and it is possible that two new Supreme Court justices could be appointed over the next four years. While women’s reproductive rights hang in the balance so does the well being of children. Voters need to exercise a critical eye in differentiating between candidates who “say the right things” and candidates who “do right by the people; including the children.” In electing progressive candidates to Congress like Joe Miklosi, Sal Pace, and Brandon Shaffer we can redefine pro-life as providing health care, ensuring children’s safety, investing in educational opportunity, funding affordable child care, and safeguarding the basic needs for food and shelter for the innocent children living in Colorado today.
Angela Engel is the author of the book, Seeds of Tomorrow; Solutions for Improving our Children’s Education and the director of Uniting4Kids a new national non-profit promoting quality neighborhood schools through parent, teacher and student leadership.