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  • Don't roll back the clock on women's heath

     By State Senator Linda Valentino of Saco.

    This week marked the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decisionRoe v. Wade--a decision that affirmed a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. A right to constitutional privacy--so that every woman can make her own personal medical decisions without the interference of politicians.

    Now, more than four decades after Roe, who would have guessed that we’d still be fighting for a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions?

    Some forty years later, the conversation about abortion is no longer about being “pro choice” or “pro life.” It has, instead, shifted to a more unifying conversation about the impact and real-life decisions women and their families face every day.

    We’ve arrived at this viewpoint because we know that abortion is a deeply personal and an often complex decision for a woman. And no one--but her--can make that decision for her.

    But even as we celebrate the Roe v. Wade decision, I am deeply disheartened by the ongoing, and unprecedented, level of attacks against women’s health and reproductive rights.

    Since 2010, more than 200 restrictions on abortion access have become law. Seventy of these new restrictions have passed in 2013 alone. There have been more attacks on reproductive freedoms in the last three years than in the entire previous decade.

    Just this month, one of the first acts of Congress and the Republicans right here in the Maine Legislature was to introduce measures that will restrict women’s health care including access to a safe and legal abortion.

    Study after study demonstrates that when women have control over the timing and spacing of her family -- or over the decision not to have children -- women are able to take advantage of educational and career opportunities and to workplace protections like paid family and medical leave and childcare. The economic reality is that for women, reproductive health and access to affordable health care is an essential part of our economic security and opportunity.

    The stakes are just too high for Maine women.

    I grew up in a pre-Roe v. Wade world until my sophmore year in high school. I saw what restricting access to a safe and legal abortion did to forever change young women’s lives.

    Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. And, I’m thankful for that. As a mother and a grandmother, I want to make sure that my 13 year old granddaughter and my two year granddaughter are afforded the same rights that I had. That we have.

    We simply can’t afford to roll back the clock on women’s health.