Why I Fight to Keep Abortion Safe and Legal

Your Take: Mississippi's new law blocking access is one reason, says Law & Order: SVU actress.

Riccardo S. Savi/FilmMagic
Riccardo S. Savi/FilmMagic

Abortion is a deeply personal and complex decision that should be left up to a woman and her family, not politicians. I am frightened — and, frankly, angered — by politicians meddling in these personal decisions, because I’ve seen firsthand how important it is that women have access to safe and legal abortion. What’s more, some politicians are perfectly willing to sacrifice women’s access to other health services — including lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, regular gynecological exams, affordable birth control and STD screening and treatment — just to achieve their goals of shutting down health centers that also happen to provide abortion services.

Let’s be clear: When far-right Republican lawmakers talk about shutting the doors of women’s health providers, what they’re really talking about is taking away the only source many low-income women have for receiving a wide range of reproductive health care services. 

Black women are particularly vulnerable to being hurt by these attacks since a significant number of us are struggling financially, uninsured and living in states hostile to women’s reproductive health.

Mississippi tops the list of states with the largest percentage of African-American residents, and Alabama and Georgia are among the top 10. What’s more, in 2010, more than 20 percent of African Americans were uninsured, compared to less than 12 percent of whites. 

Clearly we have a lot at stake in the fight to maintain access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion. For six years now, I have been lending my voice to this fight. The truth is, we all need to lend our voices and energy to it, because there are some very powerful opponents lending theirs to the effort to end women’s access to affordable reproductive care, including abortion. 

Supporting women’s health care is crucial because it may well save the life of your mother, sister, wife, daughter or — as I learned firsthand those many years ago — friend.

Tamara Tunie, an actress, plays Dr. Melanie Warner, the medical examiner on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She has been a member of Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates for six years, and most recently she has been helping the organization promote a short documentary, A Vital Service: African-American Stories of Reproductive Health.

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