August 23, 2018

Support for abortion rights has been increasing since the election of President Trump and is now at an all-time high across all political parties, with recent polls even showing a majority of Republicans in support.

That’s because this fight isn’t just about a Supreme Court caseit’s about much more. Women everywhere recognize that attacks on full reproductive rights are really attacks on their liberty, dignity, and autonomy.

The tremendous support for reproductive rights that’s becoming increasingly visible should be no surprise given the important role that childbearing plays in women’s lives — whether they have children or not. Abortion is a tool that gives women control over their own bodies and destinies, that opens up opportunity, that gives women the power to steer their futures.

As a Pennsylvania state legislator, I am also concerned about the threat to Roe, and at the same time encouraged by the opportunity created by this current debate to take long-overdue action to ensure meaningful access that recognizes abortion as a human right.  It’s time to seize the moment and start a new conversation that unapologetically embraces the value of reproductive autonomy in all of our lives and eschews every barrier, including the silence, shame, and stigma that have continued to create opportunities for the opponents of women to deny our most basic rights.

I don’t control what happens at the Supreme Court, but as the legal right is threatened, my role as a state leader has become even more important.  We need to take immediate action in state legislatures to guarantee abortion access for all people. It’s up to states like ours to lead the way: We must exercise leadership to do our critical part in creating a world where people can exercise reproductive freedom.

Already, over 300 state lawmakers have signed a statement that expresses our concerns about the current Supreme Court vacancy, and affirms our responsibility and intention to take action in our states that increases reproductive freedom for our constituents.

As progressives, we understand that complete reproductive autonomy is a linchpin of women’s equality, economic security, and liberty. We also believe that real change starts from the grassroots up, not from Washington down. On issue after issue, we’ve seen how leadership, innovation, and momentum in state legislatures over time have prompted large-scale national change in both policy and politics — resulting in powerful achievements that improved people’s lives. Recent landmark victories like the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank financial reforms, and marriage equality are examples.

It’s time for states to lead on abortion. Elected officials must uphold the sacred duty of public office by honoring our charge to act for a better future. We’ve spent years fighting back bills like the 20-week ban that chip away at women’s rights and deny their reproductive health care needs. Now it’s time to fight forward to advance the most fundamental human rights of the people we serve.

States like Pennsylvania can not only hold the line but guide the way toward a new paradigm on women’s full reproductive rights that reflects the true value and significance of abortion in women’s lives. Together with our communities, state lawmakers can pass state policies that protect and advance abortion rights and access, ushering in more freedom for future generations.


Mary Jo Daley represents the 148th District in Pa.’s House of Representatives.

Mary Jo Daley, For the Inquirer