“We cannot lose our hard-fought equality”

State rep says women now less free in America than Vietnam

SINCE 1973, access to abortion care has been a constitutional right in America. This past week, the Supreme Court took that right away, the first time ever that the Court has removed a right from the majority of the population.

Although the leaked draft warned us, it is still a shock to lose our rights to make medical decisions for ourselves. The decision about whether, when, and how to have a child is deeply personal and should not involve the government. Abortion is healthcare. It must be safe, legal, accessible, and affordable for everyone.

As a woman and as an elected official, I know I have no place making personal medical decisions for others. People should have the right to make decisions about their own medical care. If a pregnant person wants to carry a baby to term, they should have that right. And if they want to or need to terminate the pregnancy, they should have that right as well. I trust women, and I trust medical providers to help their patients make the best decisions for their individual situations.

My family and I fled a communist country to come to America, the home of the free. It is a bitter irony that, as of this Supreme Court ruling, women in America will be less free than in Vietnam, where abortion for any reason is legal. Women in America grew up believing in our freedom, our independence, our ability to control what happens to our bodies. We grew up learning that America is a country that values freedom and liberty – and now we see that freedom denied.

The Supreme Court’s decision to leave abortion access up to individual states is extremely problematic as it implies that people’s freedom varies from state to state. Why would pregnant people in Alabama have less freedom than people in Massachusetts? Thirteen states have already passed “trigger laws,” which effectively ban abortion based on this Supreme Court decision. An additional 13 states have indicated that they will pass laws banning abortion now that Roe is overturned.

Who will be affected most by this decision? Not people with means, who can still end their pregnancies by traveling to a different state or country. It’s people without means who carry the most risk of serious harm from illegal abortion: the poor, people of color, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities – vulnerable populations that need the most help.

Taking away a woman’s right to choose is unprecedented. It sends women back to second-class citizen status, where we no longer have autonomy over our own bodies. It traps many women – and their children – in a cycle of poverty.

In Massachusetts, we have codified reproductive rights, passing the ROE Amendment in 2020. Less than one week after the Supreme Court decision, the House of Representatives passed a bill protecting healthcare providers and patients seeking abortion care, confirming state-funded coverage for abortion care, requiring insurance coverage of abortion-related procedures, and affirming our commitment to LGBTQ rights, including gender-affirming medical treatment. Does this mean we are safe in Massachusetts? No.

Because the next step – and this goal has been repeated by conservative politicians – is to ban abortion nationwide. We have already learned of plans to use this decision to ban contraception, and to overturn same-sex marriage. Imagine a world where the only choice to avoid pregnancy, loss of income, any hope of professional advancement, is celibacy. Or imagine a world where our LGBTQ neighbors, many of whom have been married for years, lose their right to marriage equality. They will go back to being second-class citizens, too.

Meet the Author
We cannot lose our hard-fought equality. We have to stand up for our reproductive freedom and marriage equality. I am fighting to preserve these rights here in Massachusetts and to keep people safe. And I will keep fighting until those rights are codified, not just in Massachusetts, but across the country.

Tram T. Nguyen is a Democratic State Representative representing the 18th Essex District.