Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Opinion: We Must Stand for Choice

By Buffy Wicks
Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 1:57 PM

click to enlarge Buffy Wicks is a candidate for CA Assembly District 15.
  • Buffy Wicks is a candidate for CA Assembly District 15.
I had an abortion. I was 26 years old, in between jobs and in between homes. I had no health insurance. Staying on a friend’s couch, unemployed, and facing an unplanned pregnancy was a vulnerable time of my life.

In this moment, I turned to Planned Parenthood. I will never forget walking into that clinic, off Eddy Street, in San Francisco. The unease I felt was met with acceptance and compassion by the staff. After a positive pregnancy test and a thoughtful conversation about my options, I decided an abortion was the right decision for me.

Access to abortion is often debated in our politics in the abstract, as a matter of rights. But being able to choose when and when not to have children is, for many women as it was for me, an extremely personal and practical consideration. My abortion was a life-changing, empowering decision. It was not my time to have children yet.

Fourteen years later, I am a candidate for State Assembly, a wife and the mother of a 21-month-old girl named Josephine. In that span of time, I worked for President Obama for six years, including in his White House as part of the team who helped pass the Affordable Care Act. I launched national women’s initiatives aimed at getting better paid leave policies and more affordable child care. I spearheaded and ran a statewide parent organizer program with the goal of getting more funding for public schools. I have helped elect strong women leaders to elective office, like Senator Kamala Harris and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. When I look at how my life has unfolded in these 14 years, I am all the more certain about my decision. It has allowed me to have a fulfilling career, a marriage with the right person, and the ability to have a child when I was finally ready. I have never once regretted my decision.

Now more than ever, we need elected leaders who understand these choices. California is at a 20-year low of women legislators in Sacramento, with only 22 percent representation. It’s no wonder 43 percent of California counties have no abortion providers. Over half a million women ages 15 to 49 don’t have an abortion provider within 50 miles. Medi-Cal, our state’s Medicaid program, is required to provide coverage for abortions. Yet many low-income or no-income women, most of whom are disproportionately women of color, don’t know they have this as an option. This becomes a critical barrier to access. Additionally, no public universities across the state currently offer abortion services, instead they send women who need this care elsewhere. Finally, California has one of the nation's worst reimbursement rates for providers, which results in less services for patients, including abortions. California must lead on a bold, progressive agenda that ensures all women have access to preventative healthcare, birth control, and, yes, safe abortions.

The national picture is even worse. Our president has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women. Our Supreme Court is facing a dangerous shift to the right and the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed me to have a safe abortion may soon be under attack. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has actively worked to block access to safe and legal abortions, ruled against women’s access to birth control, and is an active member of the Federalist Society, an organization devoted to recruiting right-wing judges who oppose Roe v. Wade. Now more than ever, we need strongly pro-choice women in elective office who understand the value that family planning has in a woman’s life.

Last week I received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. While I appreciate of all of the endorsements I’ve received to date — from President Obama to Senator Kamala Harris to our next Governor, Gavin Newsom — this endorsement was particularly personal. That’s because this fight is personal.

I believe we are in a critical moment in our nation’s history and that in 10, 20, 30 years we will look back at this moment and ask ourselves, “What did you do then?” I want to be able to look my daughter in the eye and tell her that I fought for equity, equality and justice. Access to safe abortions is front and center in that fight.

Buffy Wicks is a grassroots organizer, progressive leader and candidate for CA Assembly District 15. She served as the architect of President Obama’s national grassroots organizing strategy in the 2008 and 2012 elections and served as Deputy Director of Engagement for the White House.

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