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Reproductive Freedom is My Fight, Too, and I'm Taking it to the Voting Booth

As a young woman who finally became eligible to vote in February, I feel like I’m already counting down the hours to 2012.  Between the Congressional budget showdown in March and the ongoing budget debacle in Wisconsin, it has become abundantly clear to me that there are politicians who will take every opportunity to push their own idea of what my personal life should be like.

I believe in being able to love open and honestly—and responsibly.  I believe in making reproductive health care decisions for myself with a safe and supportive health care provider, not some politician in Madison or Washington. 

The overwhelming majority of my generation agrees with me.  Four in five of us support expanded access to birth control for women who can’t afford it, and a solid two-thirds of us support LGBT marriage equality and the availability of abortion care, according to a new national poll of the millennial generation by the Public Religion Research Institute.  

But for entirely too long, lawmakers have had their priorities backwards: focusing on writing discrimination into our state constitution and restricting women’s access to health care from a trusted provider in their own communities.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Mississippi.  Part of the trip involved educating the public about the historic opportunity we have to enhance all American women’s access to affordable birth control under the Affordable Care Act.  Many conversations about the importance of expanding women's health care access came back to one startling fact:  For any Mississippi woman in need of abortion care, there is only one place to go.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin lawmakers are dismantling access to the programs and providers that make affordable access to preventive reproductive health care like birth control, cancer screenings and HIV and STD testing a reality for women, men and families throughout the state.  After returning from my trip, I can tell you that access to preventive care is part of what makes Wisconsin a great place to live.

Wisconsin politicians are also pushing pet legislation written by political groups to make abortion care impossible to get, even if a woman’s life is in danger due to tragic pregnancy complications.  They don’t care that for a Wisconsin woman in need of abortion care, there are only a handful of places to go, not to mention numerous legal hurdles once you get there.

There’s no question that too many people in my generation take the availability of affordable birth control, honest sex education, and safe abortion care for granted, even though serious barriers to these lifesaving health services and information already exist for too many.  I admit that I did, too, before the illuminating experience last year of testifying before state Senators who believe that medically accurate, age appropriate, and evidence-based sexuality education to reduce teen pregnancy and disease should be withheld from students in Wisconsin public schools. 

With my eyes now opened, I've acquired a new favorite t-shirt.  It's hot pink.  Emblazoned across the chest is a simple statement: “I Stand with Planned Parenthood.”

Just a few short weeks ago, I was sitting on a city bus in Chicago sporting my pink t-shirt as I made my way back home to Wisconsin.  I could sense the woman next to me reading my shirt, and before long she told me all about her mother’s early involvement with Planned Parenthood, decades before I was even born. 

The battle for reproductive justice is not a thing of the past. No matter where you are in the country—be it in a big city like Chicago, the Deep South, or right here in Wisconsin—this is a fight for all of us.  A fight for right now.

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