Testifying to the DC Council in support of the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019

Today, I had the immense privilege to testify to the The Council of the District of Columbia about B23-434 – Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019. This is my first time testifying and I am deeply grateful for NARAL Pro-Choice America for allowing me to testify and speak my truth as a young, Queer, Jewish woman living in DC.

All DC residents should have the right to choose and access any and all reproductive health procedures. This Act will protect that.

More information about this bill can be found here. Below is my testimony and below that is the transcript. You can watch the full hearing here.

My name is Steph Black and I am a volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice America and proudly queer and Jewish. Additionally, I am fortunate to have graduated from American University this past Sunday. Like every young person after graduation, I am tasked with trying to figure out where I will land.

Where will I move? Where will I look for my first apartment, my first job? As much as I have fallen in love with this incredible city, where I have been deeply involved in my communities, I hesitate to say I will land in DC knowing there are some serious insecurities on Reproductive Health.

As a young woman, I should have the right to make my own choices about whether or not to become a mother. I should have the right to choose when, if ever, that happens. This is something my faith tradition has taught me. In Jewish law, we are commanded to choose life when contemplating abortion. That is, choose the life of the mother. A fetus is not considered an autonomous being, but simply a part of the woman’s body. It has no legal standing on its own.

This line of thinking is representative of how the overwhelming majority of American Jews think. In a Pew Research study of Jews in the United States the vast number support abortion, more so than any other religious group. The 2015 study found that 83 percent of Jewish adults support abortion in all or most cases. This is partially because Jews recognize that the decision to have an abortion, for any reason, is between a woman and her doctor, and no one else. No one but the woman can decide what is best for her and her future. You will hear a lot of Christian voices today speaking about their religious liberty and why their faith leads them to believe that life begins at conception. But one person’s religious liberty does not allow them the liberty to oppress others.

To take away my right to choose to have an abortion as a Jewish woman is a violation of my first amendment right to religious freedom. Am I not also entitled to that right?

I must also urge you to consider that to curtail protections for abortion access curtail protections for LGBTQ+ residents in DC. Cis-gender and straight people are not the only people who get abortions. Abortion care is healthcare and to deny LGBTQ+ people healthcare is discrimination, plain and simple. When healthcare is denied, especially abortion care, the most marginalized people suffer the consequences the hardest.

This is why as a young, queer, and Jewish DC resident; I strongly urge you to pass the “Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019.” All people in this city should rest assured that we can access abortion care when and if needed.

And access to abortion care is under threat across the country. From states passing egregious laws all the way to anti-choice justices sitting on the Supreme Court, the right to access abortion as enshrined in Roe v Wade is under attack.

But due to the lack of DC statehood and the ability to fully govern ourselves, the freedom of DC’s residents to access safe abortion is even more tenuous.

I ask you to pass this bill and ensure that no one be punished for choosing to end a pregnancy and to protect those who provide abortions to patients in DC. That is why I am here asking for you, the DC Council, to be a part of protecting my reproductive freedoms as a young woman who hopes to call DC my home forever.

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