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Aaron Woods: 'All women deserve the right to make fundamental choices about their lives, their health and their bodies.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Aaron WoodsI am deeply concerned about the draft United States Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade from many perspectives. As a father, grandfather, and husband, I've been blessed with strong, dynamic women in my life. As a retired IT executive, planning commissioner, community college board member, and activist, I know our lives are enriched by outstanding women. All women deserve the right to make fundamental choices about their lives, their health and their bodies.

As a Black male, and diversity equity and inclusion activist, I'm particularly concerned that fundamental privacy and civil rights, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, are at risk. The amendment states that "no State shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," and grants citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States," including formerly enslaved people.

The right to privacy is the basis for other Supreme Court decisions; this draft decision is a slippery slope and could open the door to overturning those decisions. They include decisions regarding contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut), who we marry (Loving v. Virginia, re: interracial marriage), who we live with (Moore v. East Cleveland, re: a grandmother living with grandsons), what languages are taught in schools (Meyer v. Nebraska), bearing children (Skinner v. Oklahoma, re: forcible sterilization) who we love (Lawrence v. Texas, re: homosexual rights) and what we read (Stanley v. Georgia, re: adult pornography in one's home).

The draft also reflects strict constructionism, showing a preference for limiting interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to what is explicitly mentioned, and a narrow interpretation of what are "deeply rooted" historical events. This is another slippery slope, considering that basic rights in the original Constitution were not extended to women or people of color.

I am further concerned about the impact of the decision on women's health, and its disproportionate impact on poor women and women of color. Research shows that significant percentages of women who seek abortions already have one or more children and are below the poverty line. The rate of death from pregnancy-related causes is particularly elevated among people of color. The U.S. already has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, and there are often long-term consequences of unwanted pregnancies. This decision could worsen these grim statistics.

The Washington Post's poll and others show the majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, regardless of age, background, or educational level. However, if it is overturned, more than half the states — 26 — are poised to quickly ban access to abortion. A large number of these states are in the South and Midwest, further impacting communities of color and low-income individuals — those most facing systemic barriers to health care. This, coupled with those states' limitations on voting and other fundamental rights, is cause for concern.

Oregon is fortunate to have strong protections for reproductive health access. For the sake of women and basic human rights, we must continue to preserve those protections and be vigilant about any challenges to our basic rights in all branches of government, both state and federal.

Aaron Woods lives in Wilsonville and is co-chair and co-founder of the Wilsonville Alliance for Inclusive Community. He is a Democratic candidate for Senate District 13, including Tigard, Wilsonville, Sherwood, King City and parts of South Beaverton.

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