On Saturday January 22, women and men around the country gathered to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that gave a woman the right to choose in 1972 based on the trimester framework in conjunction with the doctor and the state. I attended a Speakout at Emily’s Clinic in the South Bronx, and was joined by a number of other men and women who protested in support of Roe v. Wade and maintaining the decision for generations to come.
The battle over women’s health has raged for decades, since Roe was decided. There has been enormous backlash in the years that followed, starting with the Hyde Amendment in 1978 and culminating in recent years with many states attempting to railroad through their state legislatures anti-choice legislation that would restrict women’s ability to obtain abortions with a number of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, the requirement to have an ultrasound before a decision is made on whether to have an abortion, judicial consent/bypass, parental consent/notification, and more recently, spousal consent and notification. These restrictions not only make it harder for women to obtain abortions, but in many cases are violations of their right to privacy based on precedent cases that have already been decided in this area, namely Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The constant challenges and threats to reproductive rights have escalated, with the clinic violence reaching its peak last year when Dr. Tiller was murdered at a Church in Nebraska. Clinic violence has been an issue for years, and has progressively gotten worse. There are few abortion providers left in the country, and fewer and fewer doctors being trained to perform abortions every year. Over 85% of counties in the United States do not have clinics that perform abortions, which make travel and time a big issue for women who live in most regions of the country and decide to have an abortion. If we as a society do not learn to respect women’s individual rights and enable them to make important decisions concerning their reproductive health and well-being, we will be putting their lives at major risk and will be continuing the practice of ridiculous double standards that will have a negative impact on everyone for generations to come.
Women are already the majority of single parents, the majority of low-income workers and those who are unemployed, and the majority of people who suffer because of inadequate health coverage and an inability to pay when they become sick. Punishing them further by restricting their access to abortion will not ameliorate living conditions, it will only make them harder, and should not be tolerated in this day in age. We all have a right to our own religious views, whatever they may be. We do not have a right to impose them on others by forcing women to make decisions that are detrimental to their lives and their futures. We would never force a man to make a decision concerning his health because of religious views—why should we do that to women? That is a violation of the 14th Amendment and of a person’s fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must first take care of the people who exist—and then worry about those to come. Those people include women, and we have a lot to make up for when it comes to them. Here is to the reaffirmation and continuation of Roe v. Wade for the next forty years, and the reinstatement of women’s rights domestically and around the world. A big thank you to all the women who work on reproductive rights issues—your work is duly noted and appreciated in more ways than you can imagine.