Local Voices: Ending Abortion Will Harm Our Community

The following is a Local Voices piece originally published in LNP on May 15, 2022. Read on LNP

It might sound like a cliche, but it bears repeating: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.

It bears repeating because there are people, organizations and institutions that are actively working to undermine our community’s ability to access safe health care.

It bears repeating because there are people whose livelihoods — and lives — are being placed in jeopardy by the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

It bears repeating because, while the decision to access an abortion is a personal choice, access to it is something that affects the future of Lancaster County.

It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

And while it may be fundamental, that does not mean it was not hard fought. We are mothers by choice, a choice that was won through the sacrifices of generations of activists and advocates, specifically Black women. It is because of their work so many people have been able to access this fundamental right.

As it stands, this will be the first generation to have fewer rights than the generation before. Unless we act now, together.

Let’s start with some important facts:

  • Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and the United States. The leaked decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is just a draft and not legally binding until a final version is issued by the court.
  • If Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. Pennsylvania is not one of those states, though we will become the nearest resource for neighboring states.
  • Abortion bans do nothing to stop abortion rates, and disproportionately impact lower-income people, and people and families of color.
  • You, we and everyone in Lancaster County have benefited from a society that allows safe and legal access to abortion.
  • YWCA Lancaster has always been at the forefront of making sure our community members are able to decide when, and if, to grow their families. And we will never back down.

Our work impacts women and people of all backgrounds. And this ruling, if codified, will impact them, too. We know it because we live it. Every day our doors are open to community members looking to grow their understanding of anti-racism; parents dropping their children off for day care; victim survivors seeking counseling for sexual assault; and residents who are in need of affordable or safe housing. A decision that impacts their ability to control their own futures affects all of us.

It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

From every metric, restricting the right of individuals and families to make their own decisions hurts our community and disproportionately causes harm to families of color. Denying the right to safe and legal abortion will stop countless members of our community from being able to pursue their goals, contribute new and innovative ideas, and move our county forward. A ban will ensnare the economically disadvantaged and people of color in an inequitable health care and child care system. Most importantly, it will force many who are desperate to terminate their pregnancies to seek dangerous and unsafe ways to achieve it, risking their lives.

The advocacy organization SisterLove Inc. has a useful tool for tracking the impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned. Using it, you can see that if Roe is reversed, Pennsylvania’s abortion protections will remain in place. However, we are a “nearest clinic” state, meaning that if this draft decision comes to pass, then our already burdened health care system will be strained as individuals seek help here. The best, safest and most beneficial way forward for our community is to keep abortion access legal.

It is a personal decision. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

Every day, we are privileged to engage with people who are seeking the freedom to choose: whether it’s a new career path, a fresh start from a dangerous living situation or the next chapter in their journey toward healing from sexual assault. The freedom to choose is sacred; one we honor and vow to protect.

YWCA Lancaster will continue to fight for our community members’ ability to choose their own futures and to have freedom over where, when or if to grow their families. We will continue to fight with the women and people we serve and the women and people we haven’t yet served. We will continue to fight for our community’s best interests.

So we will repeat it until it truly is a cliche: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.

Because fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

Stacie Blake is CEO of YWCA Lancaster. Deborah Wilson Gadsden is the organization’s board chair.