We Must Stand Up for Our Bodily Autonomy by Showing Up at the Polls

The Supreme Court’s ruling in June Medical Services striking down a Louisiana law intended to shut down clinics was a surprise victory for a reproductive rights movement that had been bracing for the worst.

The feeling of relief ended abruptly less than two weeks later, when the Court upheld a Trump administration rule allowing employers to opt out of covering contraception in their employees’ insurance plans due to religious or moral objections.

Access to abortion and reproductive care have come under sustained assault from politicians across the country who continue to devise new and ever more draconian ways to deny people care. Each year, people’s access to abortion becomes more and more dependent on their geographical location or their income — with the greatest burdens falling on women of color and those in rural communities.

I founded Trust Women in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination to reverse this tide and provide affordable, compassionate care in the most underserved areas of the country. Our clinics in Kansas and Oklahoma now provide abortion and reproductive care to thousands of women each year.

This year’s Supreme Court sent a clear message that women’s rights to their own health care decisions are far from complete or guaranteed.

So where do we go from here? At Trust Women, we plan to go on offense and redouble our efforts to protect and expand access — especially in deep-red states.

I founded Trust Women on the belief that abortion access cannot be a right reserved for the privileged few. It should not depend on where you live, the color of your skin or how much money you make. The decision of when and whether to become a parent is a deeply personal one that is fundamental to our individual autonomy. The bottom line — no one is free until we are all free — and bodily autonomy is one of the fundamental freedoms.

That is why we are committed to opening clinics in areas of the country that others have written off. We refuse to give in to the idea that some places are too hostile or too conservative to deserve abortion care. They may be represented by anti-choice politicians, but these are not anti-abortion states. Our patients have many reasons for deciding to end their pregnancies, but political affiliation is never one of them.

Listening to our patients, we know this fight is too important to leave it up to the Supreme Court, state legislators, or even members of Congress.

It is on each and every one of us to defend the fundamental right for people to make their own decisions about their bodies and their health.

That means talking with our friends, family and colleagues about the importance of bodily autonomy and how reproductive rights intersect with every aspect of a person’s life. It means knowing your state legislator’s positions on abortion rights and holding them accountable.

Most importantly, it means turning out to the polls and electing public officials who understand that personal medical decisions should be made by women and families — not politicians or employers.

The Supreme Court’s recent decisions have reminded us we can take nothing for granted, especially basic freedoms we assumed were ours.

It’s on all of us to stay vigilant and fight for reproductive justice — not just in the general election this November, but in every primary, midterm and special election in our communities. We must vote as if our rights depend upon it, because they do.

Julie Burkhart is the Founder & CEO of Trust Women

Founder and CEO of TrustWomen.org