Editor’s note: We asked readers if the Declaration of Independence were written today, what about our society would future generations look back on and question? Four students interning with the ACLU of Hawaii share their answers. If you have thoughts, we’d love to hear them.

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence promising “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they drafted what is considered to be the most important document granting human rights to all Americans. Nonetheless, recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights around the nation threaten this promise with callous and hurtful remarks against women’s health providers.

Although I am fortunate to live in Hawaii, which has recognized the importance of protecting women’s privacy, the latest attacks are reminders of how intimidating freedom really is.

When the government prohibits women from controlling their own bodies, it prohibits women from choosing their futures. Women, like men, deserve to have the right to choose what they want with their own bodies. They have the right not to be controlled by others.

Reproductive rights cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut (ruling that the government may not ban contraceptives) and Roe v. Wade were decided decades ago; however, the debate has not yet ended and women’s ability to control their own bodies continues to be in the hands of lawmakers.

What is liberty? Is it the freedom to do what one pleases? Even though I have been privileged to have reproductive freedom in my lifetime, recent fights to defund Planned Parenthood and limit abortion access in many states are evidence that basic women’s health and human rights are not entirely accepted. Women have the right to determine whether, and when, to have children and it should not be within the government’s power to make this decision for her.

Although Hawaii allows and protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, the state also does a poor job of preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Hawaii’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, and less than 50% of all sexually active teens in Hawaii used birth control pills or condoms during their last sexual encounter.

Given that the Department of Education continues a policy of prohibiting the distribution of condoms in schools, it is understandable as to why Hawaii has a high teen pregnancy rate. Hawaii needs to improve the sexual education program where all forms of contraception can be introduced to students in order to safely approach young men and women to make responsible choices regarding their reproductive health.

Hawaii must be aware of what is happening around the country to make sure that we do not adopt the new limitations on reproductive rights being introduced in other states. Despite the basic human rights principles listed in the Declaration of Independence, women continue the fight for their right to choose. Women are strong enough to determine what is best for themselves and how to fulfill their own lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness.

About the Author: Chelsey Stewart is a senior at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice, where she is also the Secretary of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society. She is currently an intern for the ACLU of Hawaii this summer and is very passionate towards prison reform and many social causes such as reproductive, LGBT, First Amendment, and prisoner’s rights. Her favorite hobby is eating and is a die-hard Stanley Kubrick fan.

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