By Stephen D. Foster Jr. | 29 January 2015
A six term congressman and lifelong opponent of abortion rights has finally changed his mind, and all it took was for him to start talking with and listening to women.
Tim Ryan is a bluedog Democrat and lifetime Catholic who represents Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since first stepping into the Capitol Building, he has supported many pieces of anti-abortion legislation written by Republicans. But unlike his Republican colleagues who are slaves to their conservative base, Ryan actually not only talked with women, he listened to them. In the process, he experienced a change of heart and officially announced on Tuesday that he now supports a woman’s right to choose.
In an op-ed published by the Akron Beacon Journal, Ryan explained how he reached his decision.
I’ve heard firsthand from women of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds about the circumstances and hardships that accompany this personal choice, which we should not judge.
I have sat with women from Ohio and across the nation and heard them talk about their varying experiences: abusive relationships, financial hardship, health scares, rape and incest. There are endless stories about women in troubling situations — the woman who became pregnant and has a violent spouse; the woman who lost her job and is unable to afford another child; or the underage girl worried she’ll be thrown out of her house if she reveals her pregnancy.
These are just a few of the many stories I have heard. Each of these women lived through difficult and personal situations with few options and no clear path to take. This is why there is no easy answer.
Ryan personally thanked US Rep. Rosa DeLauro for helping him understand that “Nobody celebrates abortion,” and that such decisions are personal ones that should be between women, their families, and their doctors. He also acknowledged that federal and state bans won’t reduce abortions. Such laws only make abortions less safe.
Instead, Ryan wrote that government can play a role in significantly reducing the number of abortions by passing laws to help women access contraception and better sex education.
Where government does have the ability to play a significant role is in giving women and families the tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies by expanding education and access to contraception. We must get past the ignorance, fear and — yes — discrimination against women that lead to restrictions on contraception and age-appropriate sex education.
Only then can we hope to continue to make significant advances in what should be our true, shared objective: reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, which make up the vast majority of abortions. Isn’t that a simple approach on which we all could agree? This is not a partisan issue, but instead a personal one.
But Ryan didn’t stop there. He also called upon Democrats and Republicans to unite and pass legislation that eliminates many barriers that all too often play a role in a woman’s decision.
We can all come together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — to create a comprehensive and common-sense legislative agenda that ensures new mothers have access to affordable health care, housing and healthy food. It is my hope that through these efforts abortions will rarely be necessary.
Most importantly, Ryan wrote that he grew to trust women and called upon politicians to stop trying to make decisions for them about their bodies and lives.
Today, I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed. I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal. And while I have deep respect for people on both sides of this conversation, I would be abandoning my own conscience and judgment if I held a position that I no longer believed appropriate.
I have come to believe that we must trust women and families — not politicians — to make the best decision for their lives.
Tim Ryan, once one of the extreme voices against legal abortion is now speaking up in defense of keeping it legal. And all it took to change his mind was a real conversation with women.
This change of heart represents a positive step in the right direction. The fact is, anti-abortion measures do not stop abortion. Restricting abortion only makes the procedure less safe and makes women more desperate to seek the care they need, even if it is in a back alley. If Republicans truly want to see the abortion rate fall dramatically, they would be wise to fully fund and enact comprehensive sex education and provide better access to contraception. Both measures would help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Greater access to affordable healthcare, housing, and food would also make it easier for women to decide against abortion because they’ll have the necessities required to take care of a child properly.
All Republicans have to do is shift their focus toward taking care of children instead of zygotes. Then, all that is required is for them to trust women to make the best decision for themselves. All they need to do is take that first step by treating women like human beings who are perfectly capable of making decisions and listening to them instead of the conservative “Christian” extremists in their party. Now, that would be surefire way to bring women back to the Republican Party.
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