Today, January 22nd, marks the 41st anniversary of the monumental Roe v. Wade decision. The landmark 1973 decision set in stone one of the fundamental principles of our democracy: the right to protection from governmental intrusion into our “zone of privacy.” The decision granted women greater agency in their reproductive lives and affirmed the fact that women are capable enough to determine what types of reproductive health services they utilize. The Roe v. Wade decision recognized that every women's circumstances are unique and that every woman facing an unintended pregnancy needs the opportunity to make the best decision for her circumstances.
41 years after that historic day, there are still some politicians who haven’t gotten the message that a woman has the right to decide what kind of reproductive care she will seek, regardless of whether she decides to continue her pregnancy or not. Since 2010, numerous states have passed a record number of restrictions on abortion and reproductive health care. In total, 205 abortion restrictions have been enacted over the past three years. This is compared to 189 restrictions during the previous decade (2001-2010). And we can’t always rely on the courts to block these restrictions. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt a Texas law that has forced more than a dozen of the state’s women’s health centers to stop providing care. As a result, large numbers of Texas women have been left without access to abortion care.
Despite these aggressive attacks, men and women across the nation have been galvanized to oppose these restrictions and the politicians who push them. In every state, we see pro-choice supporters organizing and mobilizing, telling lawmakers to stop interfering with women’s personal and private decisions. According to a Gallup poll conducted before the 2012 election, 39 percent of women in 12 battleground states named abortion as the top issue for women in the election. Across the country, we’re seeing voters consistently reject measures that would interfere with a woman’s ability to make her own decisions about pregnancy and abortion – from South Dakota, to Mississippi, Colorado, and New Mexico.
If we want to continue to protect the reproductive rights of women and their families, we’ll need to keep up the momentum of the past year and make our voices heard. We’ll need to remind politicians that Americans don’t want to see women’s access to abortion and birth control rolled back. We need to show them that opposing access to women’s health services places them out of step with the rest of the country. Let your politicians know that you believe that women should have access to the full range of reproductive health options available to her. You can fight back against the attacks on women's reproductive health by signing the ACLU's pledge to keep abortion safe and legal. You can find that pledge here.
Here in Maine, the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor will be commemorating the anniversary with their annual “Choice and Chocolate” gathering. This year’s program will involve a presentation by Shannon Brenner, co-chair of the University of Maine Student Women’s Association. In her presentation, Shannon will talk about the lasting effects of abortion stigma. The event takes place this Thursday, from 6-8. You can read more about the event and RSVP on Mabel Wadsworth’s Facebook page.