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Safe, legal abortion for 40 years

Forty years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in every state in its historic Roe v. Wade decision. It affirmed that the constitutionally protected right to privacy includes every woman's ability to make her own personal medical decisions without the interference of politicians. Four decades later, a majority of Americans still agree with the high court that personal health care decisions should be left up to a woman.

In poll after poll, the majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion in some or most cases. A Quinnipiac poll released last February found that nearly two-thirds of American voters support Roe v. Wade, with a mere 31 percent disagreeing with the historic court decision. In addition, a recent post-election poll from the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of voters younger than 30 think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

While Americans fundamentally agree with the decision, the way people identify with the issue has shifted over the years. No longer do labels like "pro-choice" and "pro-life" reflect the way people think about abortion. The fact is, generations of Americans — across party lines — understand that it's just not that simple. The decision to obtain an abortion is deeply personal and complex. It's not something that can be put squarely in a "pro" or "anti" box.

What unites people — and what doesn't need a label — is the shared belief that politicians should not interfere in a woman's personal decision about her pregnancy. Because none of us can understand another's specific situation, we don't walk in her shoes and cannot make her decisions for her.

Undoubtedly, voters made it clear in November that they are opposed to policies that demean and dismiss women. On Election Day, voters rejected some of the nation's most vocal and extreme opponents of safe and legal abortion. Yet, in state after state, legislators have put forward bills that seek to limit a woman's ability to make her own decisions about her pregnancy.

Simply put, these attacks on women's health fly in the face of public opinion, are politically unpopular, and are extremely dangerous to women and their families. To protect their health and the health of their families, women must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from elected officials.

At Planned Parenthood of Maryland — a leading women's health care provider and advocate in Maryland for over 85 years — we work every day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and keep women healthy. By ensuring access to contraceptive services, Planned Parenthood of Maryland health centers provide health care that helps women avert an estimated 5,000 unintended pregnancies and prevent an estimated 2,103 abortions every year.

We understand that a woman should have accurate information about all of her options regarding her pregnancy and that this information should support a woman to make a decision for herself. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.

We support women in whatever decision they make. This is our promise. We've protected access to abortion for women for 40 years, and we will continue to protect it for the next 40.

Jenny Black is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland and a lifelong advocate for women's health and reproductive rights. She may be reached at ceo@ppmaryland.org.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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