39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Disclaimer/Context: I am a 22-year-old single, straight, middle class, college educated, white, non-religious, feminist, self-identified woman.  In the four years that I have been sexually active I have had seven sexual partners, two pregnancy scares, and used emergency contraception once.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily representative of NOW or NOW-GR.

This Sunday, January 22, 2012, marks the 39th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which prohibited many state and federal restrictions on access to a safe, legal abortion.  The majority opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, states that “[The] right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action…or in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.  The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent.”  However, he goes on to say that the court does not support completely unrestricted access to abortion and the issue of “viability” comes into play when considering an abortion, and so privacy ends up being conditional.

I’ve always found it interesting that the (provisional) right to privacy—rather than women’s rights or even the separation of church and state—was cited as the reason for the ruling.  Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with the concept that what I do with my body is none of your business.  But in my experience, all anti-choice arguments are rooted in either patriarchy or religion (usually both).  If you believe that abortion is murder and therefore in violation of one of God’s commandments, fine.  If you believe that life begins at conception, and from then on that single-cell entity which cannot think, breathe, or survive on its own takes precedence over your own health, habits, financial situation, desire (or lack thereof) to be a parent, and anything else you may have had planned for your life, fine.  If you believe that a woman’s sole purpose in life is to bear children, or that women are incapable of making mature, healthy decisions about their own bodies, fine.

But that is your belief system, your morals, your religion.  NOT mine.

In a nation founded on civil liberties, inalienable rights, and the separation of church and state, the very idea that a fetus’ right to life trumps a woman’s right to a life of her own choosing seems utterly ridiculous.  But the controversy surrounding Roe v. Wade continues to this day, proving that the personal is extremely political.  In fact, 2011 showed record levels of new restrictions on abortion, demonstrating that our fight for reproductive justice and bodily autonomy is far from over.

There have been bright spots over the last year as well, though.  Just this week the Obama administration rejected an exemption to the 2010 Affordable Care Act that would have allowed many religiously-affiliated employers to opt out of providing coverage for contraception.

So this Sunday I will be celebrating the ownership of my own uterus by enjoying some sushi and wine, and I encourage everyone to take a moment to think about the choices we take for granted, and—if the tenuous premise of Roe v. Wade and the mass efforts of conservatives in 2011 to undermine it are any indication—how easily some of our choices could no longer be ours.

National NOW’s stance: http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/

Local abortion/support services: