Measures against women’s rights in healthcare hurt the new generation of voters
This year’s newly eligible 18-year-old voters were chosen more than three decades after the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade born. Now, as they exercise their protected voting rights under our Constitution, another protected right could soon be taken away in a destructive move against this generation.
Oklahoma leads the prosecution in a Handmaid’s Tale-style attack on women’s health care. The day after the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe made headlines, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation banning abortions as young as six weeks pregnant and leaving no exceptions for rape and incest. The governor claimed he represents 4 million Oklahomans who want to protect the unborn. He must have forgotten that he also represents those who disagree with him, including those who do not want him or any other elected official to make health care decisions for them or their daughters and sisters and nieces and granddaughters.
The onslaught on women’s health care is disproportionately affecting low-income Oklahoma. The average woman seeking an abortion in our state is not a first-time teenage mother; It is a woman in her late 20s or early 30s living in poverty with other children whom she has little or no ability to care for. She is doing her best. She works hard and wants her children to have a better life than her. Oklahoma is already one of the toughest places for women. 7 out of 10 minimum wage workers in Oklahoma are women. Almost a quarter of households in the country are run by single mothers, but when it comes to wage equity, we bring up the rear. The reality for women gets even worse when you are dealing with health care. Oklahoma has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. According to the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, more than 20% of women in our state are uninsured. There is only one obstetrician/gynaecologist for every 19,000 women. We are the last in the nation for women’s health and well-being. Imagine.
My deep concern for women’s health care goes beyond women’s rights. The upcoming Supreme Court decision and the far-right legislation sweeping the nation is a devastating incursion into minority rule. We know from extensive polls that most Americans want Roe v. Wade is confirmed, including a recent Washington Post poll that found only 28% of the country wants the verdict overturned. Roe’s upset also triggers a slippery slope toward fragmentation of other protected rights. The Supreme Court rulings that overturned sodomy laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy and legalize gay marriage were ruled in part because of Roe’s equal right to privacy. Oklahomans have conservative values, and that includes opposing abrupt changes to established laws and precedent that are catastrophic.
This new generation of voters deserves better. The single biggest reason their generation doesn’t vote is because they think their vote doesn’t matter. How can we blame them when a long standing precedent is being flipped in a radical change that they had no chance to be a part of? We owe it to the next generation to guarantee them the same rights that have been granted generations before them, and that includes women’s reproductive rights.
Abby Broyles is a practicing attorney in Norman and was the 2020 Oklahoma Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.