In America, families come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing is true for all of them — they must have the power to plan for the future. The 1973 Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is essential to that power, and it must be protected. A family, regardless of income or whether it is a single-parent household or has both parents in the picture, has to do what is best for its members. Republicans like our current Representative Brian Fitzpatrick want to take away this decision from families.
Young, single women with lower incomes are often positioned on the frontlines of the fight for reproductive rights. But if we go back to the numbers, and look at the statistics, the majority of family planning decisions are not made for one person, they are made for a family:
87-91% of women who have children use contraception.
90% of married women use some form of contraception.
59% of people who have an abortion are already parents.
Nearly 1 in 4 women in the United States will have an abortion before the age of 45. These women are people in our families, they are our neighbors and they are members of our community.
It is sobering to look at the statistics, and see just how many other families struggle in our own community. About 36,600 people in Bucks County live at or below the poverty level, and of people living in poverty here, the largest demographic group are women ages 25-34. When you factor in that the cost of living in Bucks County is substantially higher than the state and national averages, it only makes things worse for members of our community.
Make no mistake, Congressman Fitzpatrick consistently votes against reproductive freedoms. Just last fall, Fitzpatrick voted against affirming the protections of Roe v. Wade.
In 2017, he signed off on Republicans' plans to ban abortions for after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in certain cases of rape or incest. He even voted against an amendment allowing an abortion in order to save the life of a mother.
This attack on reproductive freedom won’t happen in a vacuum, it will come for us all right here in Pennsylvania. That is why I support H.R. 3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would federally codify Roe v. Wade. As more abortion bans make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, here in Pennsylvania with a majority of Republicans in both state houses, our only line of defense becomes the governor’s veto. Without that veto, and without codified legislation protecting access to safe and legal abortions, the number of people in poverty in Bucks County will increase. If families faced with unplanned pregnancy are forced to seek care out of state, then even more costs will pile up as they have to find the money to pay for travel, hotel rooms, take time off of work, or find child care.
My own family struggled to afford groceries and make the rent on time, and I joined the Army at the age of 17 to make opportunities for myself that I otherwise would never have had. As a commander in the Army, I was in charge of over 200 soldiers, and when my soldiers were struggling, they knew they could come to me. Most people don’t know that many soldiers, veterans, and their families are living at or below the poverty line, often facing tough economic issues such as food insecurity. Too often, I had my soldiers come to me and say “Ma’am, the childcare center on post is all booked up, and I can’t afford a babysitter on my own”, or “Ma’am, my wife just had our third baby and I don’t know how we are going to make it work.” My soldiers came to me to solve problems. We need leaders we know we can turn to who will solve problems. Brian Fitzpatrick can’t be trusted to solve problems when he’s voting against our best interests. I am a combat veteran — reproductive freedom is a part of the Constitution that I went overseas to fight to protect, and it’s time we take action in Congress to ensure it is protected.
Ashley Ehasz is a former attack helicopter pilot and is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Representative in the 1st Congressional District. She grew up in Southeastern Pennsylvania and now lives in Bensalem.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Ehasz: Reproductive freedom is a family issue