Abandon women and physicians on abortion rights?

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

I learned this was published this morning as I was in my 3rd examination room with a woman having her pre-surgical exam for a very wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong.

Am even more resolved.


Democrats must not abandon women and physicians on abortion rights

St. Louis American Op-Ed by Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

I have spent every ounce of energy and every brain cell I could muster these past two months on protecting reproductive justice during the Governor’s Extraordinary Special Session on Abortion.  As the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, I worked round the clock with physicians, religious leaders, attorneys with constitutional and health care expertise and, most importantly, women from all corners of the state.

Even though I’ve had a pregnancy, I learned way more than I never knew I would need about development of zygotes and embryos, routine miscarriage procedures, standard medical practice of pregnancy complications with fetal abnormalities and infertility practices. My binders of legislative research look like medical textbooks even though I am not an OB/GYN nor is anyone else in the legislature or governor’s office.

Abortion care includes long standard treatment after a miscarriage (D & C’s and D & E’s), severe fetal abnormalities in very much wanted pregnancies, complications involving a deceased fetus, rape and incest cases and other numerous reasons that are bound by HIPPA regulations. Up to 25 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage, one in three women have had an abortion, and seven in 10 people believe abortion must remain constitutionally protected. Women of all ages and faiths, including Republicans who have confided in me and even abortion protestors, have had an abortion for reasons that are none of our business.

Abortion care is constitutionally protected, even more so with the landmark 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision which states abortion regulations must actually outweigh the undue burden it places on access.

As the legislature spent over $20,000 per day for 48 days to attack St. Louis city’s reproductive anti-discrimination ordinance and advance new unconstitutional restrictions on abortion providers through SB5, I understand in full the real life consequences of the bill on women and physicians living in every county of the state.

Not one credible respected medical organization or entity supported SB5, so you might think it would be a slam dunk that every Democrat would be in opposition. However, just like in regular sessions, the “pro-life” Democrats routinely side with the anti-science, anti-medical, anti-reproductive rights lobby – even though women, particularly those of color and in rural neighborhoods, will lose access to basic healthcare and physicians standards of protocol will be jeopardized.

So you can imagine my blood pressure when I heard my state party chair along with national Democratic leaders say they are a-ok with recruiting and financial supporting additional “pro-life” candidates. Since when did it become acceptable for Democrats on a policy level to throw women’s access to basic healthcare under the bus and interfere with medical practice?

Access to abortion and the whole gamut of reproductive healthcare is an issue of economic justice, racial justice and human rights. Every woman’s choice when and if to have children is not a decision which belongs to anyone else, particularly legislators.

I was just one of the millions of women who were the majority of January’s Women’s March in Washington D.C.  and in tons of other cities, including in Missouri.  Reproductive freedom, including access to abortion, was a huge tenet of the protest and remains at the forefront of the congressional fight targeting healthcare.  Reproductive justice remains a strong issue on Election Day for millions of women, as reflected by the continual 20-point gender spread by women, most dependably women of color, voting Democrat.

Plenty of faith leaders from diverse denominations endorse reproductive rights, including Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation and Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ.  They recently published a video with other leaders, “What it Means to Be Pro-Life Missouri” exposing the “pro-life” hypocrisy of the legislature and in opposition of SB5. Rabbi Jonah Zinn of Shaare Emeth Congregation in St. Louis was one of the most ardent testifying against SB5 in June.

With our long historical struggle for full voting rights, racial and LGBT equality, to throw women up as a political tool to recruit conservative candidates is abhorrent. Would these leaders consider racist candidates?  Those opposed to equality or any other human right? Yet, those “pro-life” conservative electeds already in office also tend to vote for bills which target minorities, loosen gun laws, rob federal TANF funds and give millions in state funds to unregulated fake pregnancy centers.

In the last century, strides by women academically, in the workforce and in government is due to reproductive freedom – deciding if, when and how to raise a family, no matter what kind or color of family we are.

Having autonomy over our own body is not a moral, religious or social issue but a basic human right.


State Rep. Stacey Newman