Patricia Sharp: Sovereignty of self |

Patricia Sharp: Sovereignty of self

Other Voices
Patricia Sharp

In discussing the morality of women who choose to use contraception or have an abortion, right vs. wrong and responsibility for one’s actions are in play.

There’s something else in play, something unspoken though implicit within the discussion. Morality and responsibility rely on self-governance. This self-governance is what gives meaning to morality. The moral person decides what is right and what is wrong and chooses to respond in accord with their own conscience.

Decisions made about a person’s body and health are his or hers to make. A person’s head, arms, legs, lungs, stomach, reproductive organs are theirs, all the parts, visible and invisible. Dominion over our bodies does not belong to politicians, churches, lawyers or other members of the community. Using contraception or having an abortion may not be something you’d choose to do. That’s your decision to make. That’s what being a conscious, thinking, reasoning, feeling, judging, free, moral person entails. We each have the right to our own beliefs and opinions. We each have sovereignty over our bodies.

“In the United States, the average desired family size is two children. To achieve this family size, a woman must use contraception for roughly three decades,” cites the Guttmacher Institute. Within 30 or so years there are bound to be unintended pregnancies even with contraception. These unintended pregnancies are not taken lightly by women because women don’t take motherhood lightly. Did you know 59 percent of women obtaining abortions are already mothers?

“Couples who do not use any method of contraception have approximately an 85 percent chance of experiencing a pregnancy over the course of a year. The 68 percent of couples who use contraceptives consistently and correctly throughout the course of any given year account for only 5 percent of all unintended pregnancies.”

Having access to and properly using contraceptives has a positive impact on a woman’s education, ability to earn a living, her family, mental health and well-being.

The difficult decision to end a potential human life is not a public policy one. It’s a personal, private, moral one. Only the pregnant woman knows her circumstances and the consequences of her actions. She’s the one who should decide if, when and how many children to have and care for, with counsel from those she chooses to involve. She’s responsible for her choices just like she is responsible for any children that she has.

But, I am worried about what women and their families will face if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

Our current congressman, Doug LaMalfa, opposes a woman’s right to decide for herself about her reproductive life. Citing “sanctity of life” as his reason for wanting to impose his moral view on women, he nevertheless voted no on pregnancy and childbirth leave for employees (2011), voted no on paid sick leave for California employees (2008), voted no on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (2013), which reduced the number of women killed by their partners by 43 percent and reduced partner violence against women by 53 percent.

He also voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Luckily, in spite of his opposition, over 70,000 more of Rep. LaMalfa’s constituents have health insurance that they didn’t have in 2012. LaMalfa has also voted to cut medicare by almost $1.5 trillion and to cut children’s health insurance funding by $2 billion. This is not supporting sanctity of life. Working people, children and seniors face a difficult future when access to adequate, affordable health care isn’t available. Being one health episode away from financial crises is a reality. In the words of Audrey Denney, an educator and farmer, who is running against LaMalfa:

“The importance of protecting and strengthening critical federal and state public health insurance programs is highlighted by the fact that half of our district’s population is covered by these programs. We need to build on the successes of the ACA and work to further reduce the cost of premiums, deductibles, and medications.

“We must make critical investments in the healthcare system in order for our families, communities and economy to thrive. Medically under served, people in our region are often forced to drive hours to see a doctor.

“In two of our 11 counties, women can’t even deliver their babies in hospitals because our healthcare facilities are underfunded and understaffed.”

Denney believes in protecting a “woman’s right to full family planning and health-care services.”

I hope as a nation we can pull together and achieve consensus on what is of basic importance. The majority of us want affordable health care. And most of us, whatever our opinion on contraception and abortion, believe that women should have sovereignty over their bodies and decide for themselves the size of their families.

We must hold Congress accountable by voting in representatives that understand the role of Congress is to provide leadership focused on improving the lives of their constituents. That’s why I’m voting Audrey Denny for Congress in November. What about you?

Patricia Sharp lives in Grass Valley.

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