The Coat Hanger Issue

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MARCH 08:  A supporter of legalizing abortion poses during a march for women's rights on Internation
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MARCH 08: A supporter of legalizing abortion poses during a march for women's rights on International Women's Day on March 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marchers called for myriad reforms including protection from male violence, health care and expanded female reproductive rights. Women's reproductive rights have taken on a new focus in Brazil following the onset of the Zika virus outbreak, which authorities strongly suspect is linked to birth defects. Brazilian law currently only allows abortion in cases of rape or certain dire health threats which currently do not include the Zika virus. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

There was a great deal of consternation last week when Donald Trump suggested that women who undergo an abortion should be incarcerated. I share that consternation. But I also feel that consternation when Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and other men (always a man, never a woman) suggest that doctors who perform an abortion should be incarcerated. Because for the women, that would make an abortion much like Russian roulette.

Today, with abortions performed as medical procedures, serious complications of any kind are rare, and death almost unheard of. That's because they're done in clinics, by medical professions, with medical equipment, and with the use of antibiotics.

It wasn't always that way. Before Roe v. Wade, between 200,000 and 1,200,000 illegal abortions were performed each year -- often self-abortions, sometimes with coat hangers. So in 1930 alone, the official cause of death for 2700 American women was illegal abortion, usually from internal bleeding or ensuing infection.

In the year 1900, abortion was a felony in every state. That didn't stop abortions. But it did make them very dangerous. Those were not "the good old days." Not by a long shot.

So I cringe when I hear the GOP Presidential candidates going after the doctors. Because if we did that, then not only would we be enslaving pregnant women, but also consigning thousands of them to death.

A year ago, I cut the ribbon at a new Planned Parenthood clinic in my district, and I stared down angry, vituperative protesters. Why? Because women deserve the right to choose -- the right to choose whether or not to be mothers, and the right to sovereignty over their own bodies.


Rep. Alan Grayson