California Forum

As attorney general, Sessions could put women’s health at risk

Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court last year. Many states have been considering and passing laws and regulations to make it nearly impossible for some women to freely make this most personal decision.
Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court last year. Many states have been considering and passing laws and regulations to make it nearly impossible for some women to freely make this most personal decision. Associated Press

Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for U.S. attorney general figures into my personal intergenerational story. My grandmother and I had abortions, but our experiences could not have been more different.

For both of us, the decision to have an abortion was private, based on our respective circumstances. My grandmother hemorrhaged and almost died from an illegal, back-alley procedure. I had a legal, accessible and safe abortion at Planned Parenthood, after which I had no health complications.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, affirming every woman’s constitutional right to make her own decision about abortion, was the Rubicon that divided our individual experiences and those of millions of women.

But with Sessions nominated to be the chief lawyer of the country, we are at serious risk of crossing back to the dark side of that divide.

States have been considering and passing laws and regulations to make it virtually impossible for many women to freely make this most personal decision. Falling hardest on women struggling to make ends meet, barriers to abortion access force women to overcome obstacles from transportation, time off work and overnight stays if they must travel to neighboring states for care.

Requiring women to bury or cremate the aborted fetus, watch fetal ultrasound images, endure unnecessary waiting periods and run the gantlet of screaming anti-abortion vigilantes outside of clinics are meant to keep a woman from exercising her constitutional right and to erode her dignity.

The U.S. attorney general needs to protect women’s rights established in Roe v. Wade. Yet Sessions’ record suggests he will do the opposite. During his 20 years in the Senate he cast 86 of 87 votes against abortion and other reproductive rights issues. They include:

▪  Repeatedly voting against a resolution in support of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services.

▪  Voting to deny abortion coverage to women based on their income or insurance.

▪  Repeatedly voting to defund Planned Parenthood health centers and/or other family-planning clinics.

▪  Voting against protecting reproductive health providers from violence.

If these actions and many others leave any doubt as to how Sessions as attorney general could impact women if confirmed, look to his own words: “I firmly believe that Roe v. Wade and its descendants represent one of the worse, colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time.”

He can use the powers of attorney general to enable this backward-looking position, and my grandmother’s life-threatening abortion will become the future for millions of women and my safe abortion, the past.

As a leader of the National Council of Jewish Women, which believes in justice and upholding core constitutional rights and values, and as a woman, I call on Sen. Dianne Feinstein, minority leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and other committee members to reject the nomination of Sessions and preserve the fundamental right to abortion enshrined in current law.

Claire Lipschultz of Carmichael is a retired attorney and women’s advocate. She is a Sacramento and national board director of the National Council of Jewish Women. She can be reached at clairelipschultz@gmail.com.

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