By Kelly Macias / Daily Kos
January 22 marked the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which, through a Supreme Court ruling, legalized abortion in all 50 states. It has been an uphill battle to maintain that right ever since then. Though conservatives have tried and failed at numerous attempts to repeal the law nationally, they have been very successful at passing restrictive local laws that limit a woman’s access to contraception and abortion.As Mary Ziegler in the New York Times reminds us, though Roe is often solely associated with abortion, the law actually is about something larger.
But as the nation again considers the legacy of the country’s best-known Supreme Court decision, issued on Jan. 22, 1973, we have mostly forgotten part of the story of Roe v. Wade — one almost entirely disconnected from abortion. In the 1970s and beyond, Americans used Roe to answer much larger questions: What does the right to privacy mean, and who can claim that right?
Because we so often identify Roe with a woman’s right to choose, we forget that the original decision attracted the ire of feminists who believed that the court had focused too little on women’s interests in fertility control. The court held that the right to privacy was broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision, with her doctor, to terminate her pregnancy.
It’s fitting that on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we ask questions about the right to privacy and why it is that Republicans consistently believe that women aren’t entitled to it. We are currently being forced to endure a repugnant and damaging administration that has done much to show its belief that women aren’t autonomous human beings who deserve to make our own decisions about our well-being. And, unfortunately, this isn’t limited to our reproductive rights either:
Under President Donald Trump, the right to a safe abortion, along with a slew of other civil liberties, is in jeopardy.
Aside from allegedly grabbing pussies, Trump has interfered with women’s bodies in other far-reaching ways. He has, for example, cut the Obamacare contraception mandate requiring businesses to cover birth control in employee health insurance plans, removed protections for victims of workplace sexual harassment, threatened repeatedly to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and, most recently, made it a lot easier for doctors to deny medical care to women seeking abortions.
So here we are, in the middle of a time of incredible transformation and organizing where women are speaking out against assault and abuse, leading movements, running for office and marching like mad—and yet we also have numerous attempts to take us back to the days where women didn’t have basic rights. This is not occurring in a vacuum. The more powerful our voices become, the more the status quo is shaken up and the men who have always been in charge are afraid. Nevertheless, we must persist. Everything we know about women’s lives in the last 45 years indicates that women, their families, and society in general can and do thrive when women are freely in charge of their bodies and health decisions.
As provided by the organization, Physicians for Reproductive Health, here’s what some abortion providers had to say as they reflect on what Roe v. Wade means for their patients:
To my patients, Roe means empowerment. When my patients find out they are pregnant, they come to me with a multitude of feelings, including happy, sad, afraid, or worried. After we review their options, they feel like they have control over their personal circumstances and are able to make an informed decision that is the best for them and their families. – Dr. Bailey Cannon – Maryland
Roe means that my patients can take control of their reproductive health and choose when they have their children. This means women gain more time to get the education, training, and life experiences they desire to get the jobs and salaries they deserve. – Dr. Jessica Lee – Maryland
Roe means that my patients can choose if and when they become a parent and allows them the best chance to have a healthy and fulfilling pregnancy when they are ready. – Dr. Erica Hinz – Illinois
To my patients in Arkansas, Roe is quickly becoming something that is an intangible theory. With the mounting restrictive legislative attacks, a women’s right to be equal is slowly being chipped away. The increasing inaccessibility of choice means that our society does not value women as equal or consider their judgment as sound. – Dr. Stephanie Ho – Arkansas
We need to do everything we can to fight the Trump administration’s attempts to block reproductive care and fight for reproductive justice at state and local levels. As Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation says, “Abortion may be legal in all 50 states, but if you can’t access the care, then it’s really an empty right.” There’s no way women will let conservatives drag us back into the days before 1973. We’ve come too far and there is no turning back.
To read more stories about Roe v. Wade, check out the hashtag #BecauseofRoe on Twitter.