Letter: Your votes ‘deeply’ disrespect women

An open letter to Del. Michael Webert (R-18th):

I rarely, if ever, write a legislator regarding his position on abortion because I assume that most legislators have given serious thought to an issue before voting on a proposed piece of legislation.

But you represent my district, and you have voted that the state require women to view the most intrusive and expensive transvaginal ultrasounds after these women have made a most intimate and personal decision to terminate a pregnancy, a decision your colleague (and predecessor here in Rappahannock County), Todd Gilbert, then described as “a matter of lifestyle convenience.” And you then voted for a bill that assigns unborn children “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this Commonwealth.” So I decided that I needed to write to express not only my own views and those of many women who are also your constituents – but also those of  U.S. Supreme Court.

The assumptions about women in this legislation are both callous and ill-informed. The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion for Planned Parenthood vs. Casey written by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy (both Reagan appointees), said of a mother who carries a child to full term: “Her suffering is too intimate and personal for the State to insist . . . upon its own vision of the woman’s role.”

Most women now have full-time jobs outside the home and their income is critical to their family’s well-being. In Virginia, a woman who is employed by a small business can be fired for being pregnant. If her employer does not have health insurance and she is not married, or her husband also has no health insurance, she will have to pay the expenses of prenatal care and birth. These expenses can be devastating, even for middle-class families.

Of greatest concern to me is that you and many members of your party purport to be in favor of small government. And yet, in a matter so deeply personal as the decision whether to have a child – “matters,” as the high court put it, “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy” – you require the State to interfere.

Not only have you required the State to tell a woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy what she must see and hear beforehand, but you have passed legislation that invites the State to regulate her life as soon as her egg is fertilized. You have created the Citizen Cell, on whose behalf a woman can be subjugated. How is it that your belief that a single cell is a citizen (a bit like the medieval notion that the sperm contained miniature people, a belief to which most people do not now subscribe) trumps my belief that the soul does not inhabit the body until the first breath?

To quote again the Supreme Court’s Casey decision: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under the compulsion of the State.” And, finally: “If indeed the woman’s interest in deciding whether to bear and beget a child had not been recognized as in Roe, the State might as readily restrict a woman’s right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The ability to determine when to have children has enabled women to engage as equal citizens in our society. The legislation you support is deeply disrespectful of women’s ability to make wise decisions for themselves and their children.  

Stephanie Ridder
Flint Hill

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