Abortion rights still on political agenda

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by Lauren Gibbons
MSU School of Journalism

Women’s reproductive health has seen lip service from politicians and activist groups nationwide, but many MSU students and Lansing-area organizations are concerned political rhetoric isn’t getting at the heart of the issue.

Controversy over women’s health topics such as abortion and birth control is nothing new. Since abortion was legalized in the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, the topic has often made its way to the forefront of political conversation.

This election year has been no different, with comments about abortion policy from politicians such as Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., making waves across the country. Good set-up for the story.

The Michigan legislature also made national headlines after State Reps. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, and Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, were temporarily banned from the House floor after making comments on vasectomies and vaginas in opposition to abortion legislation.

Although the discussion is happening on both a national and local level, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan community and media relations director Desiree Cooper said the interests of politicians have not always matched the needs of women searching for reproductive health care.

Major aspects of women’s reproductive health policy are often categorized along political party lines, Cooper said, and the average woman is not one extreme or the other.

“We think there’s a disconnect between policy makers and people who are really struggling,” Cooper said. “The political extremes we’re seeing are not speaking for the general population.”

The issue of women’s reproductive health is important, but not something that should be as big of an issue as it is, particularly when considering the national debt situation and other major policy decisions the country is facing, advertising senior Lyndsey Stormer said.

Stormer noted the issues should be looked at in a broader fashion — categorizing women’s health into its own issue is unnecessarily ostracizing, she said.

“Everybody’s health should matter — it shouldn’t be a matter of women’s, men’s, children’s,” Stormer said. “I feel like there is a sort of sexism when it comes to that, but people don’t want to acknowledge it.”

Journalism junior Lauren Underhill said she takes issue with the fact that women’s reproductive health is still something women need to argue about in legislature. Religious beliefs have proven a barrier in women’s health on a policy level, Underhill said.

“The main problem is a lack of secularism in government,” Underhill said. “We’d have an easier time dealing with these social issues in a science-based manner if the government was separate from religion.”

The best way to address some of the women’s health issues the country is faced with, Stormer said, is to promote better reproductive health education at an appropriate age, hopefully instilling information that would lead to safer sexual activity and fewer abortions overall in the future.

“Younger people need to learn about contraception and how to have sex in a healthy way — when that’s repressed, more people could make mistakes that could have been prevented,” she said.

Cooper said education is one of the main focuses of Planned Parenthood, reaching out to schools and making appropriate and science-based sexual education a priority. As the election process rages on, however, she said the organization is also working to get women out to vote for what they believe in and what they want in government.

“People do not seem to tire of voicing their discontent,” Cooper said. “We’re encouraging people to get to the ballot box and express it that way in November.”

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