Covering Our Base: Why I Fight for Affordable Reproductive Care

Monday, January 21, 2013

By Morgan Meneses-Sheets

Rachel Atkins once said, “There aren’t women who have abortions and women who have babies. Those are the same women at different points in their lives.” This hits home for me. I can remember like it was yesterday being a scared freshman in college walking up to the check-out line of a local pharmacy, averting my eyes from the cashier as I paid what seemed like an exorbitant amount of money from my work study job for a pregnancy test. I think I remember the cashier saying, “good luck”—a funny comment looking back.

Those three minutes or so waiting to find out if my late period really meant what I feared felt like eons. I had thought a lot about it before making that fateful trip to the store. My relationship wasn’t the best. We were high school sweethearts who seemed to be going in different directions. After growing up pretty sheltered in my small, rural town where there seemed to be a bar and a church on every corner and not a lot of options for the future, I was just starting to see the potential ahead of me. I had friends and classmates who had kids when we were in school and knew that they were doing their best. I supported their decision, but felt that it was not the right one for me. I knew that if that plus sign came up, I would seek an abortion.

Many years later, my spouse and I excitedly bought many pregnancy tests. We planned and hoped and crossed our fingers. When we saw that plus sign, we were elated and immediately took two more tests just to make sure that this joyous news was real. It was something that we both wanted desperately, having talked about kids from our first date.

In both of those moments, I distinctly knew what I wanted. I knew what was right for me—not for all women who might be like me, but for me. I knew that my family would support me if I sought an abortion or if (and when) I became a parent.

The problem is that there are politicians who want to interfere with these kinds of personal decisions by restricting access to insurance coverage of abortion in order to make care unaffordable. It is simply unconscionable to take what are already complicated moments in a woman’s life and make them that much harder by denying her coverage for the care she needs.

However a person feels about abortion, it’s not their place to make that personal decision for someone else. And it’s certainly not the place of our elected officials.

Politicians were not by my side as I went to get my birth control prescription in high school. They were not by my side while I made my way through college. My family was there. Politicians were not listening to me on the phone as I struggled to make my way up the career ladder and find a place for myself in the world. My friends were there. Politicians weren’t at my wedding when my spouse and I made a commitment to build a life together, a life that we hoped would include children. Our loved ones were there. There were no politicians at the fertility clinic with us as we worked to have a healthy pregnancy or in the delivery room when our beautiful daughter was born. No, it has always been my family and friends who have been there for me each step of my life. And it is my family and friends to whom I turn to for counsel. They are the ones I have made personal health and life decisions with, not politicians in Washington.

Only I know the circumstances of any given moment in my life and what is best for me, and every woman should make her own reproductive health decisions based on what is best for her. For each woman to be able to make a real decision—whether that is adoption, abortion, or becoming a parent—she needs to be able to afford it. That’s why we can’t let abortion coverage be excluded from health care benefits just for political reasons.

All health insurance plans—whether paid for by an individual or sponsored by an employer or through a government health program—should cover all pregnancy-related care, including maternity care and abortion care.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets is the Program Manager for the Reproductive Health Technologies Project (RHTP) where she manages the abortion program. She has spent the past thirteen years advocating on behalf of reproductive health, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender equality, environmental protection and health care access.

This post is part of Still Wading: Forty years of resistance, resilience and reclamation in communities of color, a blog series by Strong Families commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.