Karen Cherins, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County, New Jersey, Section, marked the occasion of the January 22, 2013 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a letter to the NJ Star-Ledger warning that “complacency is the enemy of this epic reproductive rights victory.”
“State legislatures,” Cherins notes, “continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade.” What are these “core rights,” in Cherins’s view?
Our organization has long been committed to protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care.
In 2010, New Jersey completely eliminated the state budget line that allocated $7.5 million for basic reproductive health care services, leaving our state ranked a shameful 42nd of 50 states in family planning funding. Nearly one-quarter of New Jersey counties have no abortion provider at all. The bottom line is restrictions on access to abortion are unjust and dangerous. They endanger women’s health, restrict women’s rights and diminish religious freedom.
A “right” to “access,” to government funding, to an abortion doctor in every county? Roe v. Wade recognized no such “rights.” Rather, Roe affirmed the "constitutional right to . . . a woman’s right to choose abortion," in Planned Parenthood's own words. It did not recognize a right to have an abortion provided to her at others' expense. If there is a right to access to abortion services, then someone must be forced to provide and/or pay for it, essentially making doctors and taxpayers the slaves of any pregnant woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy. But as Ayn Rand so succinctly put it, “There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.’”
Cherins also cites “increased regulations and restrictions on insurance carriers” as cause for worry. There certainly are forces gathering against reproductive rights, most notably the “personhood” movement, which seeks to define a fertilized egg as a “person” possessing rights. As Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong argue,
This increasing assault poses a major threat not only to women’s right to abortion, but, more broadly, to individual rights as such. Rights form a logical unity, and to the extent that any are threatened, all are threatened. The antiabortionists’ war on a woman’s right to her body is ultimately a war on all our rights, including our rights to property, free trade, and freedom of speech.
Rearrange the rights listed in that phrase in any order, and the same principle applies: the violation of any right is a threat to all rights. Forcing others—many of whom may, for religious or other reasons of conscience, oppose abortion—to provide or pay for abortions is as much a violation of their rights to property, free trade, and religion as is the personhood movement’s agenda a violation of a woman’s right to her own body.
Cherins’s confused, or non-existent, understanding of rights undermines her whole case and, thanks to her disregard of other people’s rights, is itself a threat to true reproductive freedom.
The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong
Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff