Roe at 43: Slipping Backwards

By: Eliana S. (Day of the Girl-US Campaign Chair)

To me, twenty years sounds like an eternity. Twenty years is all I’ve ever known. I can comprehend that our world changes over time, but I will be the first to admit that I don't know firsthand exactly what that means.

But forty-three years? Roe v. Wade could be my mom! Granted, a young, cool mom who says things like "as long as it's in the house" and understands social media, but still. That's a long time.

It is also not long at all.

Forty-three years ago today, the Supreme Court ruled that choosing to have an abortion is a woman's right. Before that landmark decision, abortion was a crime that took place in dark alleys and hidden offices, and often individuals would take drastic measures to induce their own abortions through means that frequently resulted in lifelong health damages or even death.

This decision was a milestone for women in our country who were finally able to access the reproductive healthcare they needed. The pro-choice movement certainly is not perfect, but Roe v. Wade was a vital step in the fight for women’s autonomy over their own bodies.

But we are quickly slipping backward. This past year, 876 statewide anti-choice measures were enacted in the United States. In many places, it is almost as if Roe v. Wade never occurred. Women are inducing their own abortions – in Texas, between 100,000 and 240,000 women have attempted to end their pregnancies on their own. Clinics are rapidly closing, and control over reproductive health care is slipping out of our hands.

The most marginalized women in our society – women of color, immigrants, women in rural areas, lower-class women, and girls – are the most affected by this change. They cannot afford to go to the lengths to get treatment that other women can. Right now, there are significant financial, geographic, social, and legal barriers that prevent women from seeking abortion.

The anti-choice laws that affect girls are predominantly (but not exclusively) laws that require parental consent or parental notice for an abortion to take place. This is required regardless of whether an abusive parent might be the reason why a girl needs an abortion, whether a parent is anti-choice and will abandon their child if they choose to go ahead with the procedure, or of whatever a girl’s wish might be.

Make no mistake, this is a crisis. The anti-choice movement is strong.

Today, the annual March for Life took place in my home city of Washington, D.C. and all over the world. A D.C. public school was shut down because of the amount of anti-choice protestors objecting to the building of a Planned Parenthood clinic nearby. And what’s worse is that anti-choicers are attempting to co-opt the #BlackLivesMatter movement by spreading lies like “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” Just today, Senator Ted Cruz traveled to Flint to distribute water bottles to the individuals suffering from the racist policies poisoning the town’s water supply. However, he only visited and gave water bottles to crisis pregnancy centers, which are anti-choice establishments designed to spread misinformation to pregnant women and do everything in their power to prevent them from exercising their right to choose (read more about CPCs here). In March, the right to choose will be before the Supreme Court again in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, which will tackle the legality of targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws).

We cannot allow them to win.

We are fighting back. In fact, 7 in 10 Americans support the Roe v. Wade ruling. This vocal anti-choice minority is endangering our human rights (yes, the UN has affirmed that abortion is a human right) and we cannot allow this to go on any longer. Day of the Girl-US activists, I urge you to participate in the fight for reproductive justice, before it is too late. Make your voices heard as the upcoming Supreme Court decision could determine your reproductive future.

Forty-three years might feel like a long time ago, but it isn’t. If we do not act quickly, we could travel back to that time in an instant.

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