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Freedom to Choose is a Matter of Liberty

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 22 March 2023 in Wisconsin

women-healthSenator Smith writes about the importance of protecting reproductive freedom in Wisconsin by repealing the 1849-era criminal abortion ban.

MADISON - The word freedom is tossed around quite a bit. It’s a convenient word to use when trying to make others fear they will lose their freedom. Some politicians will scare voters about losing their freedom to own a gun, or losing control over their children’s education. They beat that same drum and many take the bait.

This time, it’s different. Freedoms for women have been taken away. When the United States Supreme Court made the cowardly decision to overturn the 1973 case that recognized the right to choose when and if they bear children, they stripped women of their freedom to determine their own path. Justices who had declared that they would not rule against past precedent did just that. Justices who hold such a high office in the UNITED States divided us by which state we live in. Now a woman’s freedom is determined by where they live or their financial status and ability to travel.

women-1849Wisconsin is one of 28 states that ban or severely restrict abortion. A law outlawing abortion was adopted by Wisconsin in 1849 – 70 years before women were finally granted their voting rights. This law was designed to control women at a time when women did not have a voice in this country.

Every credible poll I’ve seen shows most people believe women should have the choice whether to carry a pregnancy or not. Most recent polls show sixty percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Seventy percent believe the government should butt out of this issue, and voters should decide through a ballot initiative. 1

I realize that this is a divisive issue that many are passionate about. We all know someone who has been personally affected. Many of you have been in touch with me with diverse takes on this issue, and I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

But repealing Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban is a matter of personal liberty. This past Sunday, I attended the Rally for our Rights in Eau Claire. At this event and many others, I have been honored and grateful that so many shared their stories, some of which broke my heart. Hearing these heartfelt personal accounts, it saddens me that so many have used this issue as a political gambit.

jeff-smithI have said for many years that reproductive freedom has been transformed into a wedge issue, designed by unscrupulous politicians to garner votes and hold on to power. These politicians – overwhelmingly men – have cynically harnessed people’s strong emotions around this issue to accumulate power and influence.

They didn’t really think it would actually happen, but now that the Supreme Court has reversed 50 years of precedent Republican responses are all over the place. The voters have told them that they should repeal the abortion ban. Already this session, some have offered very limited exceptions, but anything less than full repeal is simply unacceptable.

Half measures get us nowhere. Either you have reproductive freedom or you don’t. Either ALL men AND women are equal or we aren’t. Either we all have freedom to choose our life paths or that freedom can be denied us.

I will continue to oppose Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban because by doing so, I am doing my part to protect Wisconsinites’ personal liberties. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but no one is entitled to control over another’s body.

1 Most Americans say overturning Roe was politically motivated, NPR/Ipsos poll finds,” NPR, Jan. 22, 2022

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