Tough choices.

We all have to make them. As you read this, Congress is pondering whether or not it will pass sweeping health insurance reform. A complex decision, indeed. In the midst of their debate, though, legislators shouldn’t forget a far more fundamental decision that individual Americans must make every day—the personal choice of deciding whether and when to have children.

While the ACLU does not take any position on the broader health care debate, we believe that any discussion about reform should originate from a place of respect for the freedom of choice that belongs to everyone in our country. Each of us should be able to decide what is best for our health and our family. Politicians should not intrude on personal private decisions—including reproductive health services.

No woman expects to hear that the baby she’s been looking forward to holding will likely not survive the pregnancy. No woman wants to hear that carrying her pregnancy to term will seriously threaten her own health. But these are realities, and these are the moments in life when choices—free from government intervention—must be made.

Any version of health care reform must respect the right of women and their families to deal with personal decisions in the way they see fit. Unfortunately, some in Congress have tried to remove these considerations from the debate altogether, amending the legislation to exclude abortion coverage from publicly-subsidized health care plans. The creation of exclusionary or overly-complicated procedures that remove public funding for abortion services could lead to a system where insurance companies decide to drop such coverage altogether. That’s unacceptable. A system that prevents access to reproductive health care for millions of American women would undermine the right of free choice that is inherent in our values as a free society and guaranteed by our Constitution.

These issues are still very much in play as the debate on insurance reform is nearing a close. Each of us must decide whether we’ll stand up and advocate for a system that respects individual freedom by providing women access to the full range of reproductive health care options.

That, at least, should be an easy choice to make.

For more information about our work on women’s health care, and what you can do, click here.

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