Scarlett Johansson: “A woman’s right to choose is a human rights issue”

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Moya Crockett
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Scarlett Johansson has spoken out about the politicising of women’s bodies, saying: “A woman’s right to choose is a deeply personal one and should not be a part of anyone’s political platform.”

The actress was presented with an award at Variety magazine’s Power of Women luncheon in honour of her work with Planned Parenthood – the main provider of reproductive health services in the US.

Accepting the award, Johansson said: “A woman’s right to choose what to do with her body shouldn’t just be a women’s rights issue. It’s the year 2016 and this is a human rights issue.

“A woman’s right to choose… has nothing to do with politics in the slightest,” she continued. “It is about honouring and respecting women and about upholding the law.”

Johansson added: “It is time we all stand united so this conversation is taken off the ballot, so to speak, and out of the mouths of politicians – remaining a private and personal one between a woman and her partner, her doctor and herself.”

Birth control, breast exams and cancer screenings are among the vital services offered by Planned Parenthood. However, the non-profit organisation has also frequently come under attack from conservative politicians and the pro-life movement in the US for being the country’s single largest provider of legal abortions.

Legalised abortion is a far more contentious issue in the US than the UK. According to recent Gallup statistics, Americans are almost entirely divided in their opinions on the matter, with 47% describing themselves as pro-choice and 46% considering themselves “pro-life” in 2016. One-fifth believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Johansson’s comments come as the US presidential candidates’ stances on abortion have come under intense scrutiny. Donald Trump has repeatedly flip-flopped on the issue since beginning his campaign for the White House: for years, he described himself as pro-choice, but he also said in March 2016 that women who seek abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment” – a comment he later attempted to walk back by saying that “the woman is a victim in this case [of abortion], as is the life in her womb”.

However, the Republican presidential nominee has recently toughened and clarified his position on abortion. In a September 2016 letter to anti-abortion leaders, inviting them to join his campaign’s “Pro-Life Coalition”, he committed to a new policy: “Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to prevent taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”

The Hyde Amendment is a piece of legislation that prevents any US taxpayer money being used to fund abortions, meaning that some low-income American women without health insurance find themselves forced to get into debt in order to obtain an abortion – or have to go through with an unwanted pregnancy.

One of Hillary Clinton’s most progressive policies during this election campaign, in contrast, has been her call to abolish the Hyde Amendment entirely. The Democratic presidential nominee is a longtime advocate for women’s reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood, saying in 2008: “For me, it is not only about a potential life, it is about the other lives involved… Individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision.”

No surprise, then, that Scarlett Johansson is one of the many Hollywood celebrities who have spoken out in support of Clinton’s presidential bid. “Hillary is the right candidate for now,” she told Variety. “I think she’s got a lot of integrity. She’s got a lot of stamina. She’s a very clever politician, and that’s actually important to me.”

Images: Rex Features