02/17/2011 03:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Equality Is Choice

The Republican Party would like you to think that the debate over their proposed anti-choice legislation (HR 3 and HR 358) is a debate about whether or not we should value life. Rest assured it is not; we all value life.

The debate is about a bedrock principle of our nation -- the fundamental belief that the rights and freedoms of an individual apply to all Americans, both women and men, and should be valued above all else.

Even those on the opposite side of the political aisle from me would agree that this nation was founded to give voice to the oppressed, to give full freedoms to every individual, and to free us from the constraints of the ideology of others.

As we all know, at the time of our nation's founding, this ideal was far from realized. African Americans were treated as property, and women weren't allowed to vote.

With great struggle we've righted these wrongs, and as a nation we have come to believe that men and women of every color and creed are created equal; that we are all entitled to the rights and individual freedoms at the core of our nation's ideals. With men and women of every background in positions of influence, from boardrooms to committee rooms, on sports fields and in outer space, this is more than a belief -- it's a way of life.

In valuing individual rights, our nation puts our trust in all citizens to solemnly decide the most important issues in their own lives. We do not legislate religions to follow, dictate politicians to represent you, nor decide where you live and what jobs you are worthy to hold. The founding glue of our nation is that free-willed individuals can, and should, be free to live life as they see fit.

Personally, when you are faced with a tough life decision, what do you do? Whether it is deciding where to go to college, how to support aging parents, or whether to enter into a lifelong commitment to the one you love, you more than likely take time to quietly reflect on your values, talk with friends and family, and listen to your conscience to arrive at a final decision.

Decisions like these are never easy. Many may disagree with your decision, and the process often tests your faith, challenges your beliefs, and fundamentally alters the path of your life. Yet, exactly because these decisions are so personal, so unique, and so important, we as a nation believe that the choice must be yours.

It is this freedom that I fight for today.

When applied to pregnancy, we have constitutionally protected the right for all American women to choose their own health-care options and develop a plan for pregnancy that is right for them. In part because women are instinctual nurturers, this is one of the most personal and important decisions that can be made. Whether it is in consultation with a partner, with friends and other loved ones, or in quiet reflection on one's own, this decision truly tests the conscience, beliefs and faith of all those involved.

It is the right to make this difficult choice free from the constraints of others that our Constitution guarantees. And although this constitutional protection is enshrined in Roe v. Wade, this right goes deeper than the paper it is written upon. It is grounded in the principle of equality for all Americans, and the fundamental right at the heart of the American experiment -- that every individual can decide to live their life based upon their conscience, their decisions and their beliefs.

Over the next few days and weeks I will try to share stories about the long struggle to achieve these equal freedoms for all Americans, and why it is important to continue to protect these freedoms for all Americans.

Today I want to take a moment to invite you, men and women alike, to join me, my colleagues, and millions of others Americans in the fight to make sure this equality and freedom to choose is never taken from American women and to guarantee that the right to choose your future is your own.

Rep. Slaughter can be reached at her Facebook page, via email, or through her district offices.