Hey Anti-Choicers: Coercion Is Always Wrong

Reproductive coercion is always wrong. Period. If women and their partners don't have the ability to decide if and when to have children, few other decisions matter. Having a child is such an all-encompassing life choice -- I know, I have three! -- that the final decision must belong with the people who will be most affected: the parents.

That's why both people who support and people who oppose abortion rights have problems with China's one-child policy. It's coercive. Forcing women to undergo abortions and sterilizations is immoral. The government should have no role in making individual reproductive decisions.

This is where pro-choice and anti-abortion views diverge. The American "pro-life" movement thinks it's perfectly fine that the government would badger, cajole and even compel women to continue pregnancies. They're all for that kind of reproductive coercion. Just look at the numbers.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011, state lawmakers introduced more than 1,100 bills that would affect reproductive health and rights. When all the smoke cleared, legislatures had passed 92 new laws restricting abortion.

Five states banned abortion after 20 weeks. Seven states prohibited telemedicine to be used for medication abortions -- a practice that could significantly boost reproductive choices in rural areas where clinics are few and far between. Five states began requiring women to have ultrasounds before abortions, regardless of whether or not their doctors think that it's necessary. Other states placed onerous restrictions on insurance coverage of the procedure.

The laws didn't stop at abortion. In Missouri, the legislature overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill to allow any boss to exclude contraceptives from employees' health insurance plans if they personally object to birth control. And in late September, the state fined Aetna a whopping $1.5 million for covering birth control. In Mississippi, a "personhood" amendment not only would have eliminated a woman's right to choose abortion, it could have eliminated a woman's right to choose the most effective contraception, including the pill, the patch, the implant and the IUD.

Thank goodness Mississippi voters -- as have voters in every other state where this issue has appeared on the ballot -- put the rights of women above the "rights" of fertilized eggs. But how soon until a state does restrict birth control? We've all watched the fights over contraception on the national -- and international -- stage. American anti-choice groups are working hard to overturn the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage and to prevent the passage of a law in the Philippines that would allow women easier access to affordable contraception and provide young Filipinos with comprehensive sex education.

Forcing a woman to undergo sterilization or an abortion she doesn't want is coercion -- we can all agree on that. Keeping a woman from obtaining the abortion -- or contraception, or sterilization -- she does want is just as coercive. A government that forces women to conceive, gestate and birth a child is no better than one that prevents women from having children.

Without the right to make their own reproductive decisions, women will never truly be equal. Only when all of us are able to choose our own destinies will any of us be free.

John Seager is President of Population Connection, formerly known as Zero Population Growth.