Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Women have an inalienable right to make their own medical decisions. Men have an inalienable right to make their own medical decisions. Only the first statement is up for debate with Proposition 115, an initiative to limit a woman’s right to manage her own medical care during pregnancy. This fundamental right should not be debatable. 

When those of us women, now in our seventies, grew up in the early baby boomer years, we did not have rights to our own reproductive decisions. It was a horrible situation. The great fear for young girls pre-chemical contraceptives was pregnancy out of marriage. There was profound social stigma to having babies “out of wedlock.” Parents warned their daughters “not to end up like that.”

Of course, fear in girls’ hearts didn’t stop boys from trying to sprint from first to second to third to home base without getting picked off. Girls just had to live with their worry and anxiety, often not knowing exactly what sexual activities led to unwanted results. It was a confusing and difficult experience with extremely high risk on the girl’s side.

Move on past high school. The first weddings that many of us early baby boomers attended were for the girl(s) who got pregnant. With those marriages, boys were roped into their responsibility. Sometimes the nuptials were big affairs with many present gossiping about the “reason.” Other times, the weddings were quiet, disconsolate affairs. Rarely did these marriages last, and divorces in the 70s and 80s were often a result of these early “accidents.”

College girls in the mid sixties lived in unequal times. These were the VietNam War years when rebellion against parental rules and regulations took off. Pre-1968, college girls living in dormitories or sororities had curfews to protect them from late night sex. The men on campus did not.

These rules seem quaint today, but the basis was that women had to be protected from their sexuality and they weren’t trusted to manage their reproduction physiology. 

At that time, some state laws were coercive against any female reproductive rights. The Griswold case, often mentioned in the current Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court justice confirmation, involved the right of married couples to use contraceptives without government restriction. That Connecticut litigation from 1965, when baby boomers were just beginning to get out of high school, related to the Comstock Law of 1873 that prohibited “any person from using any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception."

People in Connecticut in the early ‘60s who wanted to legally purchase contraceptives that came on the market with FDA approval of Enovid in 1960 had to buy their protection out of state. 

The Griswold court case established the “right to privacy” related to intimate practices such as using contraception in marriage. Justice William Douglas wrote, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship."

Justice Arthur Goldberg cited the 9th amendment on rights not enumerated specifically in the Constitution. Justice Byron White and John Marshall Harlan II cited the due process clause of the 14th amendment. 

The Baird decision, based on the arrest of a Boston University professor for distributing a foam contraceptive and condom to a student in class, extended the right to purchase contraception to unmarried people in 1967.

Even so, abortions were illegal. Women suffered under these anti-abortion laws. College girls, working women, and married women who didn’t want a child for many reasons slipped off to dark places to end pregnancies. Some parents shipped their pregnant daughters off to “homes” or other countries to have and adopt their babies. It was chaotic, unsafe, emotionally ripping, and decidedly one-sided. Most deeply, these laws told women they couldn’t make their own decisions about their own physical well-being.

Government intrusion in personal medical matters is always dicey. Abortion procedures, while controversial for some, must remain secure from government imposition.

It’s not a matter of “trusting” women to make right decisions. That’s not the role of government. It’s a matter of whether government interference in these private, personal, human decisions is acceptable. The answer is no, it is not acceptable. Vote "no" on Proposition 115.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

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