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Women have right to know

By Chassidy Hanley
Does staring at a fetus allow women to make more informed decisions regarding abortion? According to North Carolina legislators and officials, it does. The new law, known as the Women’s Right to Know Act, went into effect on Oct. 1, stipulating that there be a mandatory 24-hour waiting period prior to the procedure and subjecting women to mandatory counseling session. On Dec. 5, a lawsuit filed against the act will be heard to decide if the proposed section of the law that requires physicians to perform an ultrasound should be instituted.

In all fairness, our state legislators are focused on the right thing, but at the wrong time. The urgency to ensure a woman can make a fully informed decision regarding whether or not to become a parent should not be implemented while her feet are in the stirrups. This is almost as absurd as asking a woman who is about to give birth, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

Women should have access to these decision-making tools before an unintended pregnancy occurs. For instance, our policymakers can work to strengthen the new law, the Healthy Youth Act, that mandates comprehensive sex education in North Carolina schools. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that offer both abstinence and safer-sex education have the lowest rates of unplanned pregnancy among teens. Therefore, the Healthy Youth Act would help move the legislative goal of better informing women, since comprehensive sex education in schools has been proven to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy.

Lawmakers should ensure that women have the right to know about abstinence as well as methods of safer sex. And, once given the educative tools, women should have access to agencies where they may implement their knowledge of safer-sex practices. Policies that promote these goals are proven to be more effective than suspicious policies that use an ultrasound to provide “information” about the progress of their pregnancy.

The Women’s Right to Know Act promotes an environment that is likely to coerce an already-vulnerable woman into making a monumental, and deeply personal, decision impulsively with little time for any meaningful thought.

The Women’s Right to Know Act does not encourage making an informed decision or strengthen a women’s sense of self-volition concerning her sexual health. Overall, policy should work to ensure women have the right to know how to make healthy sexual decisions, not to regulate moral decisions.

Chassidy Hanley is a master’s candidate in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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