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Ken Plum: Whose choice?

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Recently the almost totally male and white members of the Texas legislature passed a law that would effectively end abortions in that state. The decision to end a pregnancy has been taken from the woman who is pregnant and made instead by a group of older men who with no knowledge of the circumstances or reasons decide for the woman in advance. A woman in Texas who is carrying a fetus with major fetal abnormalities or who had been raped by a stranger or family member would have her fate decided by a legislature who has no knowledge of the necessity or reasons that an abortion might appropriately need to be performed.

The Texas law provides that persons who assist anyone in getting an abortion after just six weeks can be sued by a neighbor, distant relative, abusive partner, or even a stranger and collect $10,000 for each successful claim. It puts enforcement of the law in the hands of vigilante bounty hunters. With the Supreme Court upholding the law we can expect such laws to be introduced in other states including Virginia depending on the outcome of elections in November. A case from Mississippi is now before the Supreme Court, and it could lead to the decision in Roe v Wade being over-turned!

Most telling in the debates over the right to end an unintended pregnancy is the lack of any understanding or compassion for the woman facing such a complex and crushing decision. Up until the changes in Virginia law last year there were a number of roadblocks and barriers intended to make it as difficult as possible for a woman to access counseling and medical advice about an unintended pregnancy or one that is medically unadvisable. The laws that have been passed over the years have treated all situations as being equal when the facts are that the circumstances are very complex and personal.

Distressing to me in the debates in which I have participated in the Virginia legislature and that I have read about in other states, is that there seems to be little or no compassion or concern about the child who is born. First, there needs to be sex education programs that reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. There needs to be greatly expanded childcare and nutrition programs for the children once they are born.

Polling in Virginia has found that 82% of those in the polling sample feel that decisions about pregnancy should be made by the woman with the support of those she loves and trusts. The poll found that 79% of Virginians believe that abortion should be legal and that the government should not prevent a woman from making that decision for herself. The decision as to which way Virginia goes on this issue is of utmost importance by the voters in the current election for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and House of Delegates members. I trust the election outcome will make it clear that it should be the woman who makes the choice!

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.